Antti Pulkkinen, associate professor of physics, was quoted in a Nov. 4 Reuters article about the possible sighting of Northern Lights in Ohio over the weekend. See the article below.
Sun Activity Could Mean Northern Lights in Ohio This Weekend
From: Reuters Date: Nov. 4, 2011 Author: Kim Palmer (Reuters) - Increased solar activity could mean Ohioans will get a rarely-seen light show in the night sky this weekend.
"Concentrations of the solar magnetic field give rise to solar eruptions," explained Antti Pulkkinen, NASA associate researcher at Catholic University of America. "When the solar eruption reaches earth's orbit, it lights it up."
Pulkkinen was referring to the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. Those are normally not experienced in the continental United States, but recent intense solar activity produced auroras in October as far south as Atlanta.
"The sun is on an 11-year solar cycle of minimums and maximums. It should reach a peak mid-2013 or so," Pulkkinen said.
"Because of this, solar activity over the past year or two is much more. And the stronger the eruption, the stronger the interaction with the earth, the more southern the auroras will be seen."
This week, Spaceweather.com reported finding a gigantic sunspot, one of the biggest seen in many years, 40,000 kilometers wide and at least twice that in length.
"There was a major eruption last night from an active region," said Pulkkinen, referring to activity resulting from the sunspot. This eruption will be directed toward Earth, making conditions ripe for visible auroras in northern Ohio.
Typical storms can last two or three days and are visible with the naked eye in the night sky.
"Lights can extend from horizon to horizon. It is a massive display," adds Pulkkinen.
Solar flares do more than just light up the sky. Even though there are no radiation fears for people on the ground, there are worries for increased radiation for planes flying over the polar regions.
Pulkkinen doesn't think the area will experience anything like Quebec did in 1989 when a solar eruption caused an electrical blackout, but he says Ohioans may experience some radio communication and power grid issues.