Solar eruption should supercharge northern lights

/ Source: Space.com

The luminous auroral displays that make up Earth's northern lights may get a boost Monday night from a weekend solar eruption.

Skywatchers in the northern latitudes could see dazzling auroras as a result of the sun eruption that occurred late Friday, according to Spaceweather.com, a website that monitors solar weather.

The eruption was a coronal mass ejection that was not aimed directly at Earth but was expected to deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field, Spaceweather.com said. It could amplify the aurora displays for skywatchers in parts of Alaska, Canada, Iceland, Greenland and Scandinavia, the web site added.

Coronal mass ejections are huge eruptions of plasma into space. When aimed at Earth, the solar particles stream down the planet's magnetic field lines toward the poles.

The Sept. 10 sun eruption was observed by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, the agency's twin Stereo spacecraft and the Solar Heliospheric Observatory, all of which are constantly studying the sun.

Severe solar storms can cripple satellites and potentially knock out power grids on Earth.

Friday's coronal mass ejection came two days after another powerful solar flare.