Photos: Spectacular auroras during ‘worst’ solar storm in 20 years


The worst solar storm in more than two decades hit Earth on Friday, causing spectacular light shows in the skies from Tasmania to Britain – with potential disruptions to satellites and power grids over the weekend.

The first plasma clouds (corona mass ejections), a massive burst of solar wind, other light isotope plasma and magnetic fields coming from the sun’s corona or ejected into space, were recorded at 1600 GMT on Friday, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) space weather prediction center.

It was later upgraded to a “severe” geomagnetic storm – the first since the October 2003 storms that caused blackouts in Sweden and damaged power infrastructure in South Africa. More plasma clouds are expected over the next few days.

Many people have shared photos of auroras on social media – from northern Europe to Australasia.

“We just woke the kids up to look at the Northern Lights in our garden! Very clearly visible to the naked eye,” Iain Mansfield told AFP in Hertford, England.

“Absolute biblical heaven in Tasmania at 4am this morning,” said photographer Sean O’Riordan on X (Twitter).

Authorities have notified satellite operators, airlines and the power grids to take precautions for possible disruptions that could be caused by changes to the Earth’s magnetic field.

Plasma clouds are not the same as solar flares, although the two phenomena are related. Plasma clouds mainly consist of protons and electrons, but to a lesser extent also heavier elements. Solar flares travel at the speed of light and reach the Earth in about eight minutes. Plasma clouds move at about 800 km per second.

The plasma clouds come from a massive sunspot that is 17 times wider than our planet. The sun reaches the peak of an 11-year cycle that brings with it increased activity.

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