Why have we seen the Northern Lights in France?

Why have we seen the Northern Lights in France?
Why have we seen the Northern Lights in France?

Skies painted with pink, purple or green light projections in the Creuse as in Paris. Northern lights were observed on the night of May 10 to 11, 2024 almost throughout France, to the delight of photographers.

This phenomenon is explained by the arrival on Earth of a solar storm. This type of storm first affects latitudes around the poles, Mathew Owens, professor of space physics at the University of Reading, told AFP. But “the stronger the storm, the lower it goes in terms of latitude”according to him.

“Gift from the weather”

“If you’re somewhere where it’s dark, cloudless and with little light pollution, you might see some pretty impressive northern lights.”said Rob Steenburgh. “This truly is the gift of space weather.” »

The aurora borealis is formed when there is a collision between these charged particles and the gases found in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. These collisions then generate tiny bursts of light which fill the sky with colored veils.

Precedents in 2003 or 1859

The largest solar storm ever recorded occurred in 1859, according to NASA. Also known as the Carrington event, it seriously disrupted telegraph communications. The most recent dates back to October 2023. Nicknamed Halloween storms”, Shes caused power outages in Sweden and damaged transformers in South Africa.

Conditions linked to a level 5 geomagnetic storm, the maximum level on the scale used, were observed Friday evening by the American Oceanic and Atmospheric Observing Agency (NOAA). “GPS, power grids, spacecraft, satellite navigation and other technologies may be affected,” she warned.

Storm alert and radiation

Satellite, communications and power grid operators in North America have been urged to take precautionary measures. He recommended residents equip themselves with batteries or potentially generators, as with any other storm warning.

For ten years, electricity operators have been working to better protect their networks, reassured Rob Steenburgh, scientist at SWPC. The effects can only occur on high voltage lines, not in individuals, and systems comparable to circuit breakers exist.

A radiation alert has also been issued, but only 1 on a scale of 5, so not causing concern at this time.

Concerning air traffic, the United States Civil Aviation Agency (FAA) said “do not expect significant consequences”. With geomagnetic storms potentially disrupting navigation tools and high-frequency radio transmissions, airlines and pilots have been urged to ” anticipate “ possible disruptions.

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