Red and pink streaks have been filling the night sky across America — spotted even in the Deep South. Does it mean that doomsday preacher Harold Camping’s often-predicted end of the world is here?
Well, actually, there was an event in space that could have been catastrophic.
It seems Earth was hit by a “coronal mass ejection,” according to the meteorologists, astronomers and sky-gazers at spaceweather.com. Basically, the sun hurled a big blast of solar energy and gas into space — but Earth’s magnetic fields blocked it from destroying all life as we know it.
Before you get too alarmed, the magnetic field — which also causes compass needles to point north — does this all the time.
This blast was just unusally strong — and arrived hours earlier than astronomers predicted.
In Arctic and Antarctic areas, dancing, glowing lights in the sky are ho-hum stuff, the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis here, the southern Aurora Australis down under.
Mars and earth’s moon both lack such a protective magnetic field — perhaps explaining the apparent lack of life there.
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Just like the special effects from your favorite science-fiction movie, Earth’s natural “deflector shields” held and the result was merely a fascinating glow seen as far south as Arkansas, Tennessee, northern Alabama, northern Mississippi and North Carolina … but no worldwide disaster.
The Aurora Borealis occurs when energy particles from the sun are blocked by the earth’s magnetic field. Though the particles were emitted from the sun on Saturday, they only hit earth’s atmosphere Monday night, according to the National Weather Service Space Weather Prediction Center.
Geir Øye, a veteran observer of the Northern Lights from Norway told spaceweather.com that this particular aurora was very powerful.
“These are the strongest and most beautiful auroras I’ve ever seen,” Øye said. “I can only imagine what the display must have been further north.”
Indeed, here’s what the light show looked like in Ontario, Canada.