Are the Northern Lights Appearing in Scotland Tonight Due to the Sun’s Largest Solar Flare in Ten Years?

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Many Scots are hoping to see the Northern Lights this week after the sun produced its largest solar flare in almost 10 years.

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The latest burst, which happened on Tuesday, follows severe solar storms that recently caused the aurora borealis to appear globally.

Unfortunately, the latest flare, the biggest of this 11-year cycle, will bypass Earth due to its eruption’s positioning, making any displays invisible to us. While this cycle is nearing its peak, it’s “not done yet,” according to an update by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

A solar flare occurs when a large concentration of magnetic energy explodes from the sun. These flares produce coronal mass ejections (CME) of magnetic energy and plasma, causing solar storms similar to the one that occurred this past weekend.

The latest flare erupted from a part of the sun currently moving away from Earth, meaning our planet won’t be in line with any potential CME activity. Separate UK forecasters say some mild auroras might still appear in the north, but likely not from this particular solar flare.

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory captured the bright flash of the X-ray flare, the strongest since 2005, rated as X8.7 on the scale for these flares.

Bryan Brasher at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Centre in Boulder, Colorado, said it may be even stronger when scientists gather data from other sources. This follows nearly a week of flares and mass ejections of coronal plasma that threatened to disrupt power and communications on Earth and in orbit.

NASA reported that the weekend geomagnetic storm caused one of its environmental satellites to rotate unexpectedly due to reduced altitude from the space weather and enter a protective hibernation known as safe mode.

At the International Space Station, the seven astronauts were advised to stay in areas with strong radiation shielding, but NASA said the crew was never in any danger.

Meanwhile, the Met Office space forecast anticipates mild aurora conditions for the rest of this week, with areas in the far north of Scotland most likely to see any visible displays.

It said: “Mainly background aurora conditions are expected, however, there remains a slight chance of glancing coronal mass ejection impacts overnight on 15 May or early 16 May, or later on 17 May into 18 May.

“These may bring some limited enhancement to the aurora, with the slight potential of allowing for some visibility as far south as northern Scotland or similar latitudes.”

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