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Solar storm produces highly visible northern lights in Manitoba

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An unusually large solar storm produced northern light shows which were visible across many parts of the country on Friday, and could potentially be viewable again Saturday night.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has been keeping an eye on a series of solar flares that have been coming from the sun since Wednesday.

Northern lights visible at Tataskweyask Cree Nation on May 10, 2024 (Hunter Kitchekeesik)

 

“The sun has an 11-year solar cycle, where it sort of gets more and more complex magnetically, and we’re at the peak of that right now,” said Danielle Pahud, director of the Lockhart Planetarium at the University of Manitoba.

As a result of this peak, solar flares and coronal mass ejections have been released from the sun, and have headed towards Earth’s magnetic bubble - the magnetosphere.

Northern light show in Manitoba on May 11, 2024 (Antonella Bertone)

“These storms are impacting the bubble,” Pahud said. “So the aurora (borealis), the northern lights, are a byproduct of the impact between the coronal mass ejections and the magnetic bubble.”

Pahud said the best place to see the northern lights is out of the city with a dark sky. She said Friday’s display may have been easier to spot than what’s in store for Saturday evening due to cloud cover in the forecast.

Northern lights display in Arborg on May 10, 2024 (Crystal Monkman).

Pahud said the solar flares could have an impact on GPS and telecommunications, with many organizations on alert and ready for any disruption.

- With files from CTV’s Maralee Caruso and Kimberly Rio Wertman 

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