Aurora Borealis: Toronto Edition!

Posted: January 9, 2014 - 13:52 , by Kiron Mukherjee
Earth and Space, Research | Comments () | Comment

The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, shines above Bear Lake: By United States Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Strang, January 2005 via Wikimedia Commons Attribution.

On January 7th, the Sun’s surface erupted with an explosion that is now 15 times the width of Earth. The resulting solar flare sent particles racing towards our planet at remarkable speeds, which in previous incidents have reached up to 1609  kilometers a second. Though the massive X1 solar flare poses no real threat to our planet, NASA did take the precaution of delaying the launch of Orbital Science's Cygnus spacecraft. With few concerns, cities like Toronto can turn their attention to the potential of a special light show, rarely seen so far south.

When particles from the sun, such as those released by the solar flare, reach the Earth's magnetic poles, they interact with the atmosphere creating the spectacular natural phenomenon known as auroras. Here in the Northern Hemisphere this is known as the aurora borealis, or more popularly as Northern Lights. The red, green and blue ribbons of light seen in the sky are the result of particles interacting with our magnetic sphere.

Rarely do these lights make their way as far south as Toronto, but due to Tuesday's huge solar flare, the potential is there to see them in our city on Thursday and Friday night!

Be warned however, our city is incredibly bright, so to even have the hope of seeing them, you'll need to venture out to the unlit limits of our city, or deep into a dark park. A further caution for aurora watchers, current forecast for tonight in Toronto calls for clouds. You can use one of my favourite websites, Dark Sky Finder, to, well, find a dark sky near you, away from all the light pollution. Remember to be careful on the ice!

For those unable see the lights, check out this stunning video of the aurora borealis as captured from the International Space Station.

More information!

Written by @kironcmukherjee. Last update: January 9, 2013.