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article imageMajor solar storm hits Earth, brings beauty to U.S. night skies

By Caroline Leopold     Jun 24, 2015 in Science
The Earth was hit by a massive solar storm on Monday. While the sun's potent energy could disrupt the power grid and GPS, it is also bringing rare sightings of auroras to parts of the US.
A powerful blast of the sun's geomagnetic energy hit the Earth on Monday, according to the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). This event was classified by NOAA as a G4 (severe) solar storm, which can cause radio and satellite fluctuations.
NOAA tracks space weather, which like Earth's weather has wind and storms, but the effects of magnetic energy affect technology rather than people directly. Most of the energy from these space storms is absorbed by the Earth's magnetic field.
A more pleasant effect of major solar storms is that they increase the chance to see auroras. Auroras are natural electrical phenomena, which appear as reddish or greenish streaks of light in the sky.
Normally, the best place to catch auroras are in northern countries like Canada, Norway, Iceland and Greenland. Strong solar storms push these beautiful auroras south, which means that some parts of the U.S. can spot them. Because of this recent storm, spectacular aurora sightings have been reported in the US, in Colorado, Virginia, and even Arkansas on Monday and Tuesday night.
Astronaut Scott Kelly, who is spending a year in space on the International Space Station, posted a picture of a rare red aurora on Twitter and tweeted, "#Aurora I don't think I will ever see another quite like you again. #YearInSpace"
The last time a major solar storm hit the Earth was in March and southern states of Tennessee, Oklahoma, and New Mexico spotted auroras' breathtaking light and color.
For those wishing to spot an aurora during a major solar storm, it is best to go to an area with low light pollution. Sightings are more likely around midnight.
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