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After another geomagnetic storm hits Earth, we break down the Northern Lights

They’re beautiful and mysterious to look at but what makes them glow?
Published: Nov. 4, 2021 at 6:42 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - A webcam at the University of Alaska: Fairbanks captured an amazing view of the Northern Lights and another geomagnetic storm reached Earth.

Alaska wasn’t alone, Northern states like Maine and Vermont were able to get in on the show as well as portions of Canada. You can find the webcam here and who has the best view.

When it comes to the Northern Lights, the biggest factors are energy, particles from the sun, and how those particles interact with our atmosphere.

The lights get their start as a solar flare radiating from the sun. The energy that’s released makes its way to Earth over the course of a couple of days. Fortunately for us, much of the energy is deflected due to the Earth’s magnetic field. The field protects us from harmful radiation and protects our electronics from being damaged.

Some of the energy does make it closer to the surface where the field is at its weakest, at the North and South Poles. Particles begin to interact with the atmosphere and the Northern Lights are formed. Depending on the size of the storm the Aurora could be seen as far south as Tennessee or North Carolina but those size storms only happen a handful of times every 11 years.

One way storms are measured is by using the Kp Index or Planetary Index. This scale is a 1 through 9 point scale and the larger the number the further south the Northern Lights will be seen. For additional information on the Northern Lights including forecasts, current storms, and scientific data head to the Space Weather Predictions Center’s Website.

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