June 14, 2021

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Northern Lights were seen in Puerto Rico 100 years ago, a day like today

The sighting of the Northern Lights is one of the most impressive spectacles of nature, and on a day like today, May 14, an intense solar storm caused them to be visible from the Island in the year 1921, that is, 100 years ago, reported by the Astronomy Society of the Caribbean (SAC).

It is an event that is usually only visible from areas near the poles, and occasionally from areas in somewhat lower latitudes, such as the northern United States and other areas of the planet. The educational entity highlighted that a study by the University of Nebraska on sightings of Auroras in low latitudes, rIt reveals that on May 14, 1921 the Northern Lights were observed from Puerto Rico and other countries that generally never manage to appreciate the phenomenon.

“On that date, Starting at 11:00 pm, an intense yellowish sky was appreciated from San Juan, as bright as if it had not yet darkened, despite the fact that it was approaching midnight. Various golden bands were visible from the horizon to the zenith or highest point of the sky, forming an incredible spectacle ”, detail some of the documented observations, explained Eddie Irizarry, vice president of the SAC.

Already during the early morning, the Auroras were also observed from Jamaica.

The organization explained that our star, the Sun, has cycles of approximately eleven years in duration in which it shows an increase in the formation of sunspots and solar storms. Occasionally it also ejects what is known as a “corona mass ejection,” a cloud of radiation with energetically charged particles that could go out into space, and sometimes in the direction of Earth.

Upon reaching the vicinity of our planet, it encounters the magnetic field that originates from the poles, and that serves as a shield to the Earth. At least in those areas near the poles, the charged particles that come from the Sun interact with the magnetic field, forming a “geomagnetic storm” and causing the curious Auroras.

The SAC added that when it comes to an intense geomagnetic storm, the Auroras could become visible from much lower latitudes. “It is also documented that impressive Northern Lights were observed from Cuba and Puerto Rico during another great solar storm on September 2, 1859”, the educational entity pointed out.

However, an intense geomagnetic storm not only produces beautiful auroras, but could also have some adverse effects on our technologies. Although these events do not have direct effects on human health, those that are intense can cause induction blackouts in power transmission lines, and probably affect some satellites and communications.

The great dependence that we have developed on electricity, communications and the internet, implies that prolonged interruptions of these infrastructures would be terrible, so the detection and studies of intense solar storms, and implementing ways to mitigate possible damage, are a priority for many scientists.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in coordination with NASA, monitors solar activity and in recent days detected mild solar storms. Scientists study the Sun continuously, since the formation of a notable or intense solar storm in the future is totally possible.

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