Outdoors

Solar storms will turn on northern lights

A spectator watches the aurora borealis rise above the Alaska Range, Sept. 3, 2006, in Denali National Park, Alaska. A Web site is taking some of the guesswork out of determining when the northern lights are going to put on their spectacular show. The Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks has revamped its Web site for aurora borealis watchers, offering daily, extended and long-term forecasts. (Associated Press)
A spectator watches the aurora borealis rise above the Alaska Range, Sept. 3, 2006, in Denali National Park, Alaska. A Web site is taking some of the guesswork out of determining when the northern lights are going to put on their spectacular show. The Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks has revamped its Web site for aurora borealis watchers, offering daily, extended and long-term forecasts. (Associated Press)

SKYWATCHING — Tonight might be prime time, if you can swing it, to go high away from city lights and above the clouds to watch the expected light show in the northern sky.

A massive explosion on the sun's surface has triggered the largest solar radiation storm since 2005, unleashing a torrent of charged plasma particles toward Earth.

The bad news:  Could cause trouble with satellites and GPS navigation, power grids and other high-tech hardware.

The good news:  Likely will trigger displays of aurora borealis, a.k.a the northern lights.

Predicting shows of northern lights is much the same for scientists as predicting the weather, since the aurora is a result of space weather.

While this week is special, scientists expect higher than normal solar activity to persist through the year. Scientists say there's been a minimum rate of solar and aurora activity since 2007.

Northern lights info and forecasts

Find a wealth of info, links, photos and forecasts at this website maintained by the Geophysical Institute at the Unviversity of Alaska Fairbanks.




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Rich Landers

Rich Landers’ Outdoors blog


Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.


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