Northern lights may end year with a spectacle thanks to solar flare

Aurora borealis set to blaze further south than usual after Monday's sunspot eruption

Aurora borealis in Yellowknife.



You might want to keep an eye on the sky for the next couple of nights.

A solar flare that erupted in Earth’s direction Monday is expected to bring intense aurora borealis for the final nights of 2015, lighting the night in some areas that don’t usually witness the northern lights.

The eruption of a sunspot cluster caused some radio blackouts in the southern hemisphere and sent a magnitude 1.9 coronal mass ejection racing towards us.

“Space weather forecasters predict a direct hit with Earth’s magnetic field on or around New Year’s Eve, potentially sparking some natural fireworks in the upper atmosphere just in time for 2016,” according to discovery.com.

“It means we have a chance of seeing aurora in areas that aren’t used to seeing it,” said Dr. Robyn Fiori, a research scientist for Natural Resources Canada’s Canadian Space Weather Forecast Centre.

The solar eruption was timed perfectly with the sun’s rotation to point in Earth’s direction.

“It’s basically a big explosion of particles,” Fiori told Black Press. “These kinds of explosions happen all the time. This one was a little bit special because it happened in the centre of the sun right where it’s facing the Earth. That means those particles and the magnetic field associated with those particles have a really good chance of interacting with the Earth’s magnetic field.”

She said most of the activity will likely happen Wednesday night.

This was the view captured near Campbell River by Ryan Dawson following a strong solar flare in July of 2012 that produced rare summer aurora. (Campbell River Mirror)

It’s not yet assured that that an aurora extravaganza will be visible across all of B.C., but it looks hopeful.

Fiori said the auroral oval around the magnetic north pole where aurora are most often visible normally only covers the northeastern corner of B.C.

“It’s possible that auroral oval will expand to cover much of B.C.”

The NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Centre says aurora may be visible at 50 degrees latitude and possibly as far south as Oregon.

The U.S. agency has issued a “strong” geomagnetic storm watch for Dec. 30 and Dec. 31, creating potential for a natural light show on New Year’s Eve as revelers ring in 2016.

NOAA forecasters say the sunspot cluster that unleashed Monday’s flare is unstable and could explode again, releasing further flares.

Images courtesy NOAA

Just Posted

Discussion centres on the future of English Grade 8 at RSS

Parents met with the principal to discuss the future of English Grade 8 at Rossland Summit School.

Rossland St. Andrew’s United Church planning for restoration

Rossland’s United Church has received a CBT grant to support a restoration of the Red Roof Church.

Interior Health facilities score high in housekeeping audits

Housekeeping audits for health facilities in the region show most are above the auditor’s benchmark.

RCMP urge drivers to be more cautious

The top causes of accidents in the West Kootenay are distracted driving, impaired driving and speed.

FortisBC explains rate change proposal

FortisBC met with customers in Castlegar to explain their new time-of-use rate proposal.

The 2018 B.C. Games wrap up in Kamloops

The B.C. Winter Games comes to a close after a weekend of fun and excitment

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

Naval ship spills 30,000 litres of fuel in the Strait of Georgia

HMCS Calgary spilled fuel east of Nanaimo and Parksville on Saturday

B.C. boosts support for former youth in government care

More support coming for rent, child care and health care while they go back to school

Concert-goers unfazed by Hedley sexual misconduct allegations

Frontman Jacob Hoggard thanked fans from the ‘bottom of our hearts’ at Halifax’s Scotiabank Centre

Control, agility and grace take gymnastics stage at the B.C. Games

Athletes often made the sport seem effortless during the Kamloops 2018 B.C. Winter Games

Original B.C. Games participant-turned-sensei officiating 39 years later

Langley judo sensei was a competitor at the inaugural B.C. Winter Games 40 years ago

Police watchdog probes B.C. man’s taser death in alleged parental child abduction

Independent Investigations Office called in after one male dies

PHOTOS: Harnessing diverse abilities on the court at the B.C. Games

Basketball is one of two Special Olympics events at the B.C. Winter Games in Kamloops

Most Read