A powerful solar storm has eroded Earth’s magnetic field and created incredible pink auroras

An amazing sight played in the Norwegian sky at the beginning of November: the pink colored aurora borealis! It has been a long time since researchers and amateurs have observed anything. In question, a hole in the earth’s magnetic field. What exactly happened?

Around our Earth, there is like a magnetic shield. It protects our planet — and the life that thrives on it, especially the biospherebiosphere — harmful radiation from space. But it may happen that this shield is broken. Under the influence of a significant The explosion of the sunThe explosion of the sun type of ejection massmass coronal (CMECME). This is what happened a few days ago. The solar wind causes a geomagnetic storm that exceeds the earth’s magnetic fieldearth’s magnetic field. A hole that, according to scientists, remains gaping for no less than six hours.

The result: a spectacular sight — aurora hunters create the most intense auroras seen in over a decade — pink colored Northern Lights! Usually, these celestial lights have a green color. A color they owe to the excitement of the solar wind in the relatively abundant oxygen at the top atmosphereatmosphere. Because in general, the solar wind does not reach a lower altitude than one hundred kilometers.

Amazing pink aurora borealis

But when solar activity is intense, the wind and charged particles of coronal mass ejections can penetrate our atmosphere deeper. Especially if they create a hole in the earth’s magnetic field. Then they descend to less than 100 kilometers in altitude. And encounter nitrogen en masse. Which, under excitement, lit up the sky with a beautiful pink color.

Another strange light phenomenon was observed on the same night of November 3, 2022. On the Swedish side, this time. Something that looks like the Northern Lights… the color is blue! But scientists are still reluctant to attribute it to the hole that once existed in the Earth’s magnetic field. It could also be … a Russian missile test!

Are there holes in the Earth’s magnetic shield?

To explain the unusual rain of cosmic rayscosmic rays that happened on June 22, 2015 for two hours, a group of researchers made some simulations from the data collected in telescopetelescope Grapes 3, in India. This suggests that, on that day, the earth’s magnetic field was severely tested, and even broken, by a stormstorm solar. A weakness in our shield that has surprised and alerted scientists.

Article on Xavier DemeersmannXavier Demeersmann published on 10/11/2016

On June 22, 2015, a geomagnetic storm hit the Earth’s magnetic field just as solar activity (five eruptions in five days) intensified. Again, you might say, except this storm is different from most others. As shown in the recordings made by the network of detectors in lessless Grapes 3 (Gamma Ray Astronomy PeV EnergieSphase-3), located in Ooty, India, the atmosphere of our planet, that day, was bombarded for two hours by cosmic rays, which is far from normal.

According to the simulations of a group of researchers from Tata Institute of Fundamental Researchthese rays above strengthstrength exploiting breaches in the wall of magnetospheremagnetosphere to explain. The event caused many disturbances radioradio to the highest latitudeslatitudesaccompanied by a bright aurora.

A situation that is not without concern, have the authors of their study published recently in Physical Review Letters, as it suggests that our planet’s magnetic field may fluctuate and weaken. In short, this shield that is essential to life on Earth is not stupid.

An impressive solar storm

It all starts with a strong coronal mass ejection. Coronal Mass Ejection or CME) belched in SunSun. About 40 hours later, the blasted particles hit Earth’s magnetosphere at more than 2.5 million kilometers per hour, compressing our shield to the point that it shrinks from the average size of 11 Earths. radii to 4 only.

This solar storm has, in a way, reactivated the Earth’s magnetic field. “This weakening can occur when the Sun’s magnetized plasma distorts the Earth’s magnetic field, stretching it into poles and reducing its ability to deflect charged particles,” explains the press releaseAmerican Physical Society.

Fortunately, this unexpected event lasted only two hours and had very few consequences. However, this example reminds us how important it is to study these events to prevent solar flares and thus prepare them to avoid planetary chaos in our societies that are highly dependent on electricity, radio exchange , satellite, etc. Indeed, what would happen if the solar storm was similar in intensity to the one in 1859, known as the “Carrington event” (see also “Solar storms: will the 2012 event serve this lesson?”)? Our world, interconnected, very vulnerable, will undoubtedly struggle to recover from this.

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