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Northern lights viewed in Southeast US

Solar wind pushes aurora borealis further south
Northern lights aurora borealis rare south america north 10 20111025Enlarge
Aurora Australis, the Southern Lights as seen from South Australia as with Aurora Borealis, are displayed during strong geomagnetic events. March 29, 2001. (NOAA/AFP/Getty Images)

A solar wind caused the northern lights to appear as far south as Georgia on Monday evening. The lights are usually seen only in the northern most parts of the United States, making this sighting of the lights unusual.

The Northern lights, or aurora borealis, occur when energy particles from the sun interact with the earth's magnetic field. Scientists call this a coronal mass ejection. Though the particles were emitted from the sun on Saturday, they hit the earth's atmosphere on Monday night.

See pictures of the northern lights.

"A storm on the sun's surface was blown off, and the solar wind scattered it," said Jim Branda at the National Weather Service. "The energy and magnetism interact with the earth's atmosphere and the magnetic field."

The impact of the particles caused a compression in the magnetic field, which allowed electrically charged particles from the solar wind to enter the geosynchronous orbit of Earth which is at 22,000 kilometers in altitude, explains ABC News.

There has been strong auroral activity in the last few months, as solar activity is expected to peak in 2013 as part of the sun's 11 year cycle, reports MSNBC.

MSNBC reports that Earth-orbiting satellites could have been exposed to the solar storm. Power grids and satellite communication can be affected by solar storms, however, no one has reported significant problems from last night's phenomenon.
 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/weird-wide-web/northern-lights-southeast-us

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