Northern lights threaten radio comms – expert

A Norwegian scientist has warned that recent powerful eruptions on the sun could trigger powerful northern lights in southern Norway on Thursday, causing interference to radio communications.

Northern lights threaten radio comms - expert
Photo: Terje Rakke/Nordic Life

sunspot large enough to be seen with the naked eye has caused a series of explosions on the sun's surface, according to astrophysicist Knut Jørgen Røed Ødegaard.

Ødegaard has forecast a powerful display of the northern lights in southern Norway on Thursday morning and warned that the powerful geomagnetic storm could have consequences for satellite and radiocommunications.

"The cloud from the blast is expected to hit Earth on Thursday March 8th at around 7.25am Norwegian time and can trigger a strong to very strong geomagnetic storm, possibly in the extreme. This involves disturbances in the Earth's magnetic field, strong aurora very far to the south, including southern Norway," he said.

Knut Jørgen Røed Ødegaard explained that huge clouds of electrically charged gas were hurled into space and hit the Earth on Wednesday, with even stronger eruptions, a so-called X5, taking place at 1.28am on Wednesday morning.

He said that the outbreak is so powerful that there is also a risk of interference to radio communications and systems for satellite navigation.

"Satellites can be affected and there is some danger that the power supply can suffer interference in some locations in the northern latitudes."

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Why the northern lights might be visible in more of Norway than usual

Current atmospheric conditions mean there's a good chance the aurora borealis will be visible across much more of Norway than normal on Friday.

Why the northern lights might be visible in more of Norway than usual
Photo by stein egil liland from Pexels

Normally, the northern lights are only visible in northern Norway, typically between April and September.

According to the Geophysical Institute of Alaska the KP index, which is a system of measuring aurora strength, will reach Kp 5 out of a possible 9.

Anything Kp 5 and above is classed as a geomagnetic storm. This means you will be able to see the green lady a lot further south than you usually would.

The reason for this high forecast is “corona holes” (no relation to the pandemic). These are holes in the Sun’s atmosphere, where solar wind is thrown out at high speeds.

The northern lights occur when the protons and electrons from solar wind hit the particles in the Earths atmosphere and release energy.  

“You can see it down towards eastern Norway as an arc on the horizon, while in central Norway and in Trøndelag it will be right over your head.” Pål Brekke, head of space research at the Norwegian Space Center, told newspaper VG.

READ MORE:Taking pictures of the Northern Lights: 10 expert photography tips 

While there will be strong northern lights activity over large parts of the country, it does not necessarily mean that everyone will get to see it.

“It doesn’t look too promising in Nordland and Troms”, state meteorologist, Sjur Wergerland told VG.

However, he also added that the forecast looks much better further south.

Even then though there is no guarantee you will see the northern lights, according to Brekke.

“It is not certain that the northern lights will move as far south as we think, but I recommend people to follow forecasts on websites to stay up to date,” he said.

In order to see the northern lights, the weather will also have to be on your side. Clear skies are best and going to areas with no or low light pollution is important too.

If you are lucky enough to see the lights make sure you don’t wave at them. Doing so will cause the lights to lift you up and take you away according to Norwegian folklore.