Over the Halloween weekend, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Orbiter recorded an amazingly large solar flare erupting from the Sun’s surface. The incredible solar activity from October 25-28 complete with massive flares culminated in a huge Class X1 Solar Storm that struck the earth coinciding with the spooky holiday. The storm, also known as a Coronal Mass Ejection or CME sent a blast of charged solar particles and radiation streaming toward the earth at 2.5 million mph flaring up our auroras and disrupting orbital communications. And what an astronomical light show!
“Brighter than a shimmering ghost, faster than the flick of a black cat’s tail, the suncast a spell in our direction, just in time for Halloween,” NASA officials wrote
Flare Blast Sends Aurorae South, Disrupts Power
The most spectacular point came Thursday when the X1 class solar flare launched from the Sun’s corona in the southern hemisphere, these are the most powerful flares the sun can dish out.
, “Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation,” NASA officials wrote in the video description. “Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however — when intense enough — they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel.”
Aurorae were visible as far south into the United States as New York, Idaho, Illinois, Oregon, Maryland, and Nevada. In the UK effects were seen as far south as Wales where one Twitter user captured dash-cam video of street lights flickering out as the sky flashed blue.
According to Dailypost.co.uk, “Power outages followed in parts of Cardiff, Newport, Port Talbot, Carmarthenshire and across south Wales and southwest England.
Some people said their lights just flickered on and off but others reported longer outages with street lights remaining down for a time.
A spokesperson for Western Power said at the time that the reason behind the outage on Sunday was due to “an issue with the National Grid and they are investigating”.
— ???Abbz Kebabz??? (@tinsytee) October 31, 2021
Though much of the US missed the light show, we can count ourselves fortunate that the CME and solar storm had significantly weakened according to the UK’s Met Office, “The large coronal mass ejection that left the sun on the 28th was much slower and weaker than expected. Further weak enhancements to the auoral oval are possible this coming night (31st) but an easing trend is probable, making sightings only possible across high latitudes. Geomagnetic activity is expected to remain largely Low on the 1st and 2nd, perhaps with an increase on the 3rd due to the arrival of coronal hole 16.”
As dependent as our society is upon global internet connectivity and fragile nationwide electrical infrastructure, a massive solar storm similar to the Carrington Event of 1859 could be a showstopper for 21st century society. When we see these beautiful displays it should humble us to recall how fragile all that we depend upon is.