The sun has spewed out two plasma clouds in the past two days, which could trigger beautiful aurora displays observable much further south than usual.
both of you coronal mass ejections (CME), eruptions of charged particles from the the sun’s upper atmosphere known as the corona, burst from the sun on August 14 and 15, respectively, according to the UK forecaster Office of the Met (opens in a new tab). As CMEs cross the 900,000 miles (150 million kilometers) distance between the star and our planet, they could cannibalize each other, according to SpaceWeather.com (opens in a new tab)creating a single superpowerful CME.
CME cannibalization occurs when the ground fires two bursts in a short period of time, with the second of the two being more energetic and therefore faster than the first.
The double CME is currently expected to reach Earth on Thursday (August 18) and could activate aurora displays that could be visible as far south as New York and northern England.
Related: Where and how to photograph the aurora
Auroras are a byproduct of geomagnetic storms caused by interactions between Earth’s magnetic field and the magnetized plasma of the sun. In addition to these fascinating phenomena, geomagnetic storms can also cause power outages and disrupt satellite links and radio communications. The UK’s national weather service, the Met Office, predicts the next geomagnetic storm will be only minor and does not expect significant disruption.
There are currently five numbered sunspot regions of the visible disk of the sun, generating solar flares, bursts of electromagnetic radiation that also affect the Earth. Unlike CMEs, which take up to three days to arrive, solar flares reach the planet at the speed of light, meaning forecasters cannot give any advance warning as the planet experiences the effect in the moment the flares are seen.
In the past 24 hours, there have been three moderate-class flares from the most active sunspot region, causing minor radio blackouts, the Met Office said. Space meteorologists expect more eruptions over the next few days. In addition to the two CMEs, there is also an increase in the solar wind flowing in from a coronal hole, which will enhance the auroral displays expected later this week.
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