A powerful solar storm has pierced the Earth's magnetic field and created very rare pink auroras.

A powerful solar storm has pierced the Earth’s magnetic field and created very rare pink auroras.

A rare sight appeared in the Norwegian sky at the beginning of November: the pink Northern Lights! It has been a long time since researchers and hobbyists observed any. In question, a hole in the Earth’s magnetic field. What exactly happened?

Around our Earth, there is like a magnetic shield. Protect our planet, and the life that has developed on it, especially the biospherebiosphere — harmful radiation from outer space. But it can happen that this shield cracks. Under the influence of a major solar flaresolar flare expulsion type doughdough crown (CMECME). That’s what happened a few days ago. Solar winds caused a geomagnetic storm that broke the earth’s magnetic fieldearth’s magnetic field. A hole that, according to scientists, remained open for no less than six hours.

The result: a rare sight: Aurora hunters conjure up the most intense auroras seen in over a decade: pink northern lights! Most of the time, these heavenly glows take on green hues. A color that they owe to the excitation by the solar winds of the oxygen that is quite abundant in the heights. atmosphereatmosphere. Because in general, solar winds do not reach altitudes lower than a hundred kilometers.

rare pink aurora borealis

But when solar activity is intense, winds and charged particles propelled by coronal mass ejections can penetrate deeper into our atmosphere. Especially when they create a hole in the Earth’s magnetic field. They then descend to less than 100 kilometers in altitude. And find nitrogen en masse. Which, under the emotion, illuminates the sky with a beautiful pink color.

Another strange light phenomenon was observed that same night on November 3, 2022. On the Swedish side, this time. Something that looked like the northern lights… blue in color! But scientists are still hesitant to attribute it to the hole in the Earth’s magnetic field. It might as well have been… a Russian missile test!

Are there holes in the Earth’s magnetic shield?

To explain the unusual rain of cosmics rayscosmics rays which took place on June 22, 2015 for two hours, a team of researchers created several simulations from the data collected by the telescopetelescope Grapes 3, in India. It suggests that, on that day, the earth’s magnetic field was severely tested, and even cracked, by a stormstorm solar. A fragility of our shield that surprises and alerts scientists.

article of Xavier DemeersmannXavier Demeersmann published on 10/11/2016

On June 22, 2015, a geomagnetic storm hit Earth’s magnetic field just as solar activity (five flares in five days) was intensifying. One more, you could say, except this storm stands out from most others. As shown by the recordings made with the network of detectors of muonsmuons Grapes 3 (Gamma Ray Astronomy PeV EnergieSphase-3), located in Ooty, India, the atmosphere of our planet was, that day, bombarded for two hours with cosmic rays, which is far from usual.

According to simulations carried out by a team of researchers from the Tata Institute of Fundamental Researchthese high beams energiesenergies took advantage of breaches in the walls of the magnetospheremagnetosphere insinuate. The phenomenon caused a series of disturbances. radioradio to the highest latitudeslatitudesaccompanied by striking auroras.

A situation that is not without concern, underline the authors in their study recently published in Physical Review Letters, as it suggests that our planet’s magnetic field may be changing and weakening. In short, this essential shield for life on Earth is not infallible.

An impressive solar storm

It all started with a powerful coronal mass ejection. coronal mass ejection or CME) vomited by the SunSun. Some 40 hours later, the particles slammed into Earth’s magnetosphere at over 1.5 million miles per hour, compressing our shield to the point of shrinking it from an average size of 11 Earth radii to just 4.

This solar storm was, in a way, capable of reconfiguring the Earth’s magnetic field. “This vulnerability can occur when the Sun’s magnetized plasma distorts Earth’s magnetic field, stretching its shape at the poles and decreasing its ability to deflect charged particles.” explains the press releaseAmerican Physical Society.

Fortunately, this unsuspected event only lasted two hours and had minor consequences. However, this example reminds us how important it is to study these phenomena in order to prevent solar flares and thus prepare ourselves to avoid planetary chaos in our societies that have become highly dependent on electricity, radio exchanges, satellites, etc. . In fact, what would have happened if the solar storm had been of the same intensity as the one in 1859, known as the “Carrington event” (see also “Solar storms: will the 2012 event serve as a lesson?”)? Our world, interconnected, very vulnerable, would certainly have had a hard time recovering from it.

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