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Friday night solar show

Peak of 11-year solar sunspot cycle on May 10, 2024.

solar lights, langford
Solar lights in the night sky over Langford on May 10, 2024. [Camille Currie]
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Friday May 10, 2024 | LANGFORD, BC [Updated May 11, 2024]

by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends


Tonight Friday May 10 and possibly also on Saturday evening May 11 there will be a light show of massive proportions!

Appearing as what we normally refer to as the aurora borealis, the solar flare lights will be visible for many in the eastern sky tonight, and possibly tomorrow night.

solar lights, langford
Solar lights in the night sky over Langford on May 10, 2024. [Mary J Wagner]
solar flare, may 10, 2024
Peak of the 11-year solar sunspot cycle as seen in Maine, USA on May 10, 2024. [CNN]

The material sent speeding away from the sun during coronal mass ejections can arrive at Earth between 30 and 72 hours afterward, causing geomagnetic storms that affect satellites and create electrical currents in the upper atmosphere that travel through the ground and can have an impact on electric power grids.

gord johns, solar lights, port albrni
Solar lights in the night sky over Port Alberni on May 10, 2024. [Gord Johns, MP]

As CNN reported, the Space Weather Prediction Center runs a model every few minutes that predicts where the aurora will be easiest to spot.

Tonight’s celestial event is the peak of an 11-year solar sunspot cycle (therefore previously in 2013 and before that in 2004). This is the tracking of ‘space weather’ which will become more of a normal thing in our technological society going forward.

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Communications interruptions:

There is the possibility of telecommunications interruptions. Blackouts or satellite transmission interruptions can happen.

solar lights, vancouver
Solar lights in the night sky over the City of Vancouver on May 10, 2024. [Vancouver City News]

Where it can be seen:

Its forecast for 10:04 p.m. ET (7:04 pm Pacific) showed nearly all of Canada will have a high chance of seeing the aurora if the skies are dark and clear. The high chance extends into the Lower 48, including parts of the Midwest, including Wisconsin and Michigan.

Areas as far south as the Ohio River Valley, West Virginia and Maryland will also have a chance to see the northern lights.

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Night sky:

The sky needs to be dark to see the aurora, so areas where it’s still light out won’t yet be able to see it (like on south Vancouver Island, due to daylight savings time producing a still-bright sky around 7 pm), even if they have a high chance in this forecast. UPDATE May 11: After nightfall, many people on south Vancouver Island got some wonderful photos.

solar sky, sooke
Solar light bursts over Sooke River Campground, May 10, 2024. [Katie in Sooke / Sooke.ca]

Come nightfall, visibility through the night into early Saturday morning, wlll be possible according to the CBC this evening.

There continues to be a high likelihood of aurora over the far northern latitudes of Asia and Europe, including Finland, Sweden and Norway. Iceland will continue to have prime aurora viewing. There is also still a chance to see aurora in parts of the UK.

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