Advertisement - Click to support our sponsors.

Saturday, April 8, 2000

UH tracks rare
aurora light show

The northern lights appear
farther south than usual

By Helen Altonn


A magnetic storm triggered by intense activity on the sun has treated people as far south as New York to a look at the northern lights.

University of Hawaii University of Hawaii astronomer Donald Mickey said he got a call from a meteorologist in New York who had reports of auroral observations in the middle of the state.

"And he was getting enough of them that he believed them."

Charged gas particles from solar eruptions are responsible for the northern and southern lights (the aurora borealis and aurora australis), usually seen only in extreme northern and southern regions.

In 1989 during the solar maximum -- the sun's 11-year peak of activity -- the northern lights were visible as far south as Mexico.

The sun again is nearing its most intense activity.

UH astronomers who study solar flares and mechanisms causing them are monitoring the solar action from the Mees Observatory on Haleakala, Maui.

Mickey said satellite measurements showed that early Thursday some sort of shock wave hit the magnetosphere -- a magnetic field around Earth -- and shook everything up.

Shock waves are made up of charged gas particles from the sun and can cause satellite problems and power disturbances.

"This wasn't a huge flare but apparently was in just the right place," Mickey said.

He said the geomagnetic intensity peaked Thursday and was basically back to normal yesterday.

UH Institute for Astronomy
University of Hawaii

E-mail to City Desk

Text Site Directory:
[News] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]

© 2000 Honolulu Star-Bulletin