Northern Lights could be visible from Yorkshire as solar storm continues crash course with Earth

Yorkshire could be set to witness the Northern Lights this evening as a huge solar storm hurtles towards Earth.

Wednesday, 14th March 2018, 10:18 am
Updated Wednesday, 14th March 2018, 10:20 am
Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

READ: Massive solar storm set to hit Earth tomorrow could bring Northern Lights to LeedsThe storm, which was caused by an enormous explosion in the sun’s atmosphere last week, could wreak havoc with satellite signals and power sources, NASA have warned.

Charged particles from that flare are now on their way to our planet - and are predicted to hit today.

The arrival of the solar storm coincides with the formation of ‘equinox cracks’ in Earth’s magnetic field, which form around the equinoxes on March 20 and September 23 every year. These cracks weaken our planet’s natural protection against charged particles, potentially leaving aeroplanes and GPS systems exposed to the storm.

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The cracks also mean those looking up to the skies are more likely to catch glimpses of the Northern Lights this week.

This may include parts of Scotland and northern England, as well as parts of the north of America.

Charged, magnetic particles from the solar storm can interfere with machinery in Earth’s orbit as well as at the planet’s surface, such as GPS systems and radio signals.

They can also threaten airlines by disturbing Earth’s magnetic field.

READ: Stephen Hawking's most memorable quotes on fame, the universe and much moreVery large flares can even create currents within electricity grids and knock out energy supplies.

A spokesman for NASA said: “Solar flares and CMEs are not a danger to humans on Earth’s surface, as the planet’s magnetic field (magnetosphere) and atmosphere deflect and absorb the solar energy and particles.

“The sun storms can pose some risks to astronauts, and they can upset the electronics and transmissions on science, military, and communications satellites.

“Closer to Earth’s surface, solar activity can cause disruptions of radio signals (particularly HF), provide a small dose of radiation to passengers on high-latitude flights, and provoke auroras (northern and southern lights).

“The storm is impressive by recent standards, but nowhere near the maximum intensities often generated at the height of the solar cycle.”