Solar storm causes auroras to light up the UK skies; seen as far as Stonehenge
The Sun has been experiencing chain explosions in the past few days due to the sunspot AR3229 which was causing numerous solar flares to erupt and emit large amounts of solar particles into space. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Earth faced a double blow of gusty solar winds and a coronal mass ejection (CME) both of which hit the planet. When the solar storm hit the Earth it was a frightening occurrence marked by the highest speed of solar winds witnessed in several years, resulting in the most severe solar storm of 2023.
This solar storm caused a dangerous G3-class Geomagnetic storm and sparkling auroras were seen in several parts of the world, especially in the UK. Skywatchers from Scotland, northern Wales, Ireland and even southern England took to Twitter to share stunning auroras captured lighting up the sky. Even Stonehenge in Wiltshire witnessed auroras in the sky.
Northern Irish photographer, Evan Boyce shared his first experience of capturing Northern Lights. Boyce told space.com in an email, “I first picked up a camera during the COVID lockdown and have wanted to capture the aurora ever since. It’s quite difficult living in Northern Ireland, given how far south we are in comparison to where the aurora can normally be viewed.”
Stuart Atkinson, another seasoned astrophotographer captured auroras and shared his experience with space.com. He said, “”I took the images last night from a place called Shap, probably one of the highest locations in my area and far enough further north of where I live to give me a better view of the aurora than I would have at home.”
Dangers of Solar Storm
When a Solar Storm hits Earth, it sparks a Geomagnetic storm and the magnetic field lines of the Earth temporarily get disturbed, releasing extremely high magnetic energy. The energy and heat are enough to ionize oxygen present in the upper atmosphere and turn it into blue-green hues of light, which we know as auroras.
Moreover, Geomagnetic storms can disturb, or even destroy, GPS, radio communications, mobile phone connectivity, satellites and even the Internet. Also, they can create harmful geomagnetic induced currents (GICs) in the electricity grids.