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Northern Lights Visit Area

The Northern Lights as seen from the Ranch (home to the Breeze) at 11:00 p.m. on Friday, May 10th.

On Thursday, May 9, two massive sunspots merged to form a gigantic sunspot 16 times the size of the Earth. The event caused X- and M-class solar flares to shoot out electrically charged particles which caused the northern skies to light up on Friday night as far south as Florida. The skies were clear in this area of West Virginia and lights were very dramatic.

NOAA space weather forecasters reported seven coronal mass ejections (CMEs) from the sun with the first impacting the Earth early Friday afternoon EDST. The collision with the upper atmosphere sets off geomagnetic storms which produces radiation and can disrupt satellite communications. The intensity of the CMEs on Friday was cause for the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) to issue warnings to infrastructure operators in North America that the power grid could be impacted. Operators have the capability of limiting damage to the grid. The last time which SWPC issued such a warning was in 2003.

The normal solar cycle of the Sun produces peak sunspot activity about every 11 years. Activity in the current cycle is expected to subside in 2025. Tree rings and ice cores bear evidence of much larger solar superstorms in the past. In 1859, an event produced a geomagnetic storm that caused an aurora to cover the entire planet. There is evidence that a solar flare, hundreds of times greater than that of 1859, occurred about 14,000 years ago. Past periods of sunspot activity have been as long as a few years and as short as several months.

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