NASA Video: A big "coronal mass ejection" leads to northern lights
Here's some amazing footage of what NASA is calling the largest solar storm in the last eight years. NASA says the storm began at 10:38 p.m. ET on Jan. 22, peaked at 10:59 p.m. and ended at 11:34 p.m.
After the flare, the solar particles hit the Earth this morning. From NASA:
The coronal mass ejection CME collided with Earth's magnetic field a little after 10 AM ET on January 24, 2012. The influx of particles from the CME amplified the solar radiation storm such that it is now considered the largest since October 2003. NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center has categorized it as a "strong" -- or S3 (with S5 being the highest) – storm. Solar radiation storms can affect satellite operations and short wave radio propagation, but cannot harm humans on Earth. Auroras may well be visible tonight at higher latitudes such as Michigan and Maine in the U.S., and perhaps even lower.
How a solar storm turns into northern lights (or southern lights) was always a mystery to me until I saw this video explaining how it works.