Over the past few days, several solar flares and coronal mass ejections have erupted from the sun. A coronal mass ejection or CMEs is when the sun spits out magnetic energy that releases fast-moving particles. The good news for people living in Canada is that these geomagnetic storms increase the chances to catch the northern lights.
The sun is constantly active but it has an 11-year cycle with a minimum and maximum times of activity. Currently, the sun is at solar maximum which means more sunspots can be seen across its surface. Sunspots are cooler regions that will appear black when seen through solar telescopes. However, these regions are an entanglement of magnetic fields that can sometimes erupt with a solar flare.
Very often sunspots are followed by CMEs that are carried along the solar wind. If the charged particles are directed at Earth they will interact with its magnetic field. The particles specifically interact with molecules in the upper atmosphere, which then creates the northern lights or aurora borealis.
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