Here's Why The Aurora Borealis Did Not Appear This Weekend


Skywatchers in Northern America were left disappointed after the much-awaited aurora borealis, also known as northern lights, made a no-show over the weekend.

Fans of the naturally occurring light show went on social media to share how they were let down that they did not get to see the event.

One Twitter user posted that their group went on a road trip to Port Washington, Wisconsin to watch the aurora borealis, but they were not able to see anything.

Another user by the name of Rachel Shubin tweeted that they were not able to catch the northern lights in their area in New Jersey.

Northern lights fan Javier J. Mendez said the aurora borealis did not show up at where he was in upstate New York.

Some people even tried to reach out to fellow social media users to ask where they could get a better glimpse of the light show.

Tammy Davidson tweeted that their group was able to see the aurora borealis, but based on their images, it would seem that the northern lights were a bit dim in their area.

This begs the question: what happened to light show?

What Happened To The Northern Lights?

The aurora borealis is traditionally seen only in the northernmost parts of the world. This is why people would often have to travel to other countries, such as Iceland or Greenland, just to witness the phenomenon.

When the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that a geostorm could make the aurora borealis visible over the northern part of the U.S., fans all over the internet made arrangements to catch the rare event.

However, agency scientists said they could not guarantee that everyone will be able to catch the northern lights.

"I would not drive out of my way for this particular event," said NOAA physicist Terry Onsager.

Onsager explained that a large portion of the sun's atmosphere shot off and was believed to be heading toward Earth. It was expected to reach the planet's magnetic field over the weekend.

The event would have caused the aurora borealis to appear, but based on scientists' calculations, it would occur at around 11 a.m. This would have made it difficult since the northern lights can only be seen at night.

There was also the possibility that it would miss the Earth entirely, which would prevent any aurora borealis from even appearing.

Not Enough Blast From The Sun

As it turned out, the chunk from the sun's atmosphere did reach the planet but only slightly.

Rob Steenburgh, acting head of NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center, said the Earth got hit only by the trailing edge of the energy blast. This was not enough to trigger the northern lights.

For aurora borealis to occur, the planet would have to receive a direct hit of energy particles from the sun. The bigger the blast, the more visible the lights show would be.

The full moon and the cloudy skies over the weekend also made it difficult to see the northern lights.

Steenburgh pointed out that the sun is now in its solar minimum, which is known as the quietest part of its cycle. During this period, solar radiation levels are minimal and solar flares do not occur often.

This means catching an aurora borealis will be even more challenging for skywatchers.

ⓒ 2018 All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
Real Time Analytics