Solar Wind Lights Up Night Skies, After Bursting Through a ‘Hole’ in the Sun

By Rafi Letzter

A powerful gust of solar wind is crackling its way through Earth’s upper atmosphere yesterday (April 11), after it escaped through a large gap in the sun’s atmosphere.

The first signs of the stream of energized particles turned up Tuesday night (April 10), in the form of dramatic auroras appearing at latitudes as low as Williston, North Dakota, as seen on spaceweathergalley.com.

They followed a geomagnetic storm warning from the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center, which indicated that auroras might be visible in Alaska, much of central Canada, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, and northern fractions of Wisconsin, Michigan and Maine. Much of Scandinavia, the Shetland Islands and northern Russia could also plausibly witness geomagnetic lights in the sky.

This storm is the result of what’s called a coronal hole, which, as Live Science sister site Space.com has reported before, is a patch where the sun’s atmosphere — its corona and outermost layer — has thinned substantially. Coronal holes are actually pretty common. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory reported that three coronal holes covered wide swaths of our local star from April 3 to April 6. Such holes make it easier for solar wind to escape earthward.

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