The Student Voice of North Allegheny Senior High School

The Uproar

The Student Voice of North Allegheny Senior High School

The Uproar

The Student Voice of North Allegheny Senior High School

The Uproar

A Dazzling Night Sky

Last Friday, western Pennsylvanians were treated to a rare spectacle — the Aurora Borealis.
Fiona Engel

For the first time in 21 years, the Aurora Borealis was visible all across the United States. This past Friday, May 11, an intense geomagnetic (G4) storm caused by flares from the Sun allowed these alluring lights to be seen.

The Aurora Borealis originates on the Sun’s surface, some 93,000,000 miles away. When a massive explosion of electromagnetic matter, called a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME), occurs, these remnants from the explosion area are directed towards Earth and cause a geomagnetic storm. These storms typically disrupt communications, satellites, navigation, infrastructure, radio transmissions, and, of course, put the Northern Lights on display. 

Typically, the average Northern Lights are only visible from locations close to the North Pole, such as cities in Norway, Iceland, Greenland, and Sweden. However, this time around, the lights were visible here in Pittsburgh, specifically in Allegheny, Washington, Armstrong, Beaver, Greene, and Butler counties. 

Soon after 10 P.M. last Friday, Pittsburgh locals were able to point their iPhone cameras at the sky, use the “Night Mode” feature, and take a picture of dazzling vibrant pinks, purples, reds, and greens. 

Here in Pittsburgh, viewers could look up and see some slight streaks of coloration in the night sky, but the Night Mode photos were far more dramatic.

If viewers were not able to capture a look at the sky on Friday night, the Aurora Borealis lights were visible Saturday and Sunday night, though they were less vibrant and smaller. 

According to USA TODAY, the recent occurrences of geometric storms may result in frequent occurrences due to the “solar maximum,” which will take place next year. NASA reports that the next peak of these lights will be visible as soon as next year, in July of 2025, rather than another 21 years. 

Over the course of every 11 years, the Sun’s magnetic pole flips. In the middle of this span of years, there is a time period of heightened solar activity. In this time, solar flares as well as dazzling Northern Lights are particularly visible.

The current solar cycle that we are in (solar cycle 25) began in late 2019, and now we are approaching the time of its peak, five years in. Over the course of this year and next, there will be much more frequent solar activity before lessening again in 2030 and then becoming more active again around 2035. Even with this occurrence, we are not far enough into this year to gather peak and post-peak data to indicate any further predictions regarding the solar maximum. 

Researchers from San Diego State University reported that a potential mass power outage and an extreme disruption to electronics and global communications are a possibility. However, the last known extreme case occurred in 1859, which is known as the Carrington Event, which knocked out telegraph communications all across Europe and North America. If a similar event would occur during this maximum, it would have potentially devastating effects on the internet, infrastructure, and power grids.

But last Friday’s astronomical event was far tamer and certainly a beautiful sight to behold.

Leave a Comment
About the Contributor
Fiona Engel
Fiona Engel, Staff Writer
Fiona is a Junior at NASH and this is her first year writing for The Uproar. She loves music, concerts, traveling, Converse, and cats.

Comments (0)

All The Uproar Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *