Cape Town - The sun has emitted billions of tonnes of super-heated plasma particles that are hurtling outward at millions of kilometres an hour. This phenomenon, known as a coronal mass ejection (CME) in the scientific community, has triggered a geomagnetic storm headed straight for Earth and is expected to reach the planet this week.
While this may all sound like the beginning of an action-packed Hollywood disaster movie, the truth is that this event's impact on our planet is far less frightening, and far more beautiful.
The impending geomagnetic storm is set to bring nature's light show, the Northern Lights, further south than usual. This means that more people will be able to view this phenomenon. In the US, keen observers may even be able to see the Northern Lights in its most northern states.
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CMEs that trigger geomagnetic storms are often associated with solar flares. These flares release a mass of magnetic energy and particles that can travel millions of kilometres toward Earth before being drawn toward the planet's magnetic poles in the North and South. As these particles make contact with the Earth's atmosphere, they interact with a variety of elements and the end result is a dazzling display of lights in the night sky.
Prospective viewers should head north and find a place with as close to total darkness as possible. For those unable to make the journey, check out the stream below:
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