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Fri Jun 26, 2015, 02:47 AM

A Big Solar Burp Pelted Earth Last Night [View all]

THE SUN IS throwing a fit. For the second time this week it has launched massive chunks of itself at us—from 93 million miles away.

Don’t be offended: This is all part of the normal solar weather cycle. Every so often, turbulence on the sun’s surface erupts, shooting radiation and ionized particles earth-ward. When it’s bad, it can fry satellites, and take them offline, disrupt the electrical power grid and expose astronauts and airline passengers to harmful radiation.

The solar storm that reached us yesterday turned out smaller than expected, causing no-known damage. But, if you were lucky, it did treat you to celestial nighttime light show.

Solar storms are what create the aurora borealis—the ethereal colored lights sometimes seen dancing in the night sky, especially at high altitudes.

But catching auroras from solar storms remains largely a matter of luck. Despite almost 200 years of working on solar storm predictions, scientists still have but a few hour’s warning that a storm’s a brewin’. And they have just a few minute’s warning about how intense it will be. So often people who spy the auroras have no idea they’re coming until they’ve arrived.


An aurora captured by NASA astronaut Scott Kelley from the ISS, June 22, 2015. He sent this image out with a tweet: "The red curtain of an #aurora closes on another day. Good night from @space_station!#YearInSpace" NASA

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Rhiannon12866 Jun 2015 OP
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