The closer you are to the poles, the better the auroras. Image credit: John a Davis/Shutterstock.com
Yesterday, a rift opened in Earth’s magnetic field and remained open for almost 14 hours, allowing Vecna and his minions to cross the Upside Down. OK, maybe not that last bit, but it allowed powerful solar winds to pour through the hole, creating a geomagnetic storm that triggered some pretty epic auroras.
The crack in the magnetic field was created by a rare phenomenon called the co-rotating interaction region (CIR) of the Sun. CIRs are large-scale plasma structures generated in the low and mid-latitude regions of the heliosphere—the region surrounding the Sun that includes the solar magnetic field and solar winds—when fast and slow solar wind currents interact.
Like coronal mass ejections (CMEs), CIRs are hurled from the Sun toward Earth and can contain shock waves and compressed magnetic fields that cause stormy space weather, which usually presents to us as pretty auroras.
This struck the Earth’s magnetic field in the early hours of July 7 and caused a long-lasting G1-class geomagnetic storm. Analysts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) suspect that a CME was embedded in the solar wind before the CIR, reports Spaceweather.com.
Don’t worry, cracks in the earth’s magnetic field are normal. The magnetic field acts as a shield to protect us from solar storms spewed out by the Sun. We thought they opened and closed relatively quickly, but now we know they can stay open for hours.
“We discovered that our magnetic shield has drafts, like a house with an open window during a storm,” said Harald Frey, lead author of a 2003 study on the discovery.
“The house deflects most of the storm, but the couch is in shambles. Likewise, our magnetic shield takes the brunt of space storms, but some of the energy slips through its cracks, sometimes enough to cause problems with satellites, radio communications and electrical systems.”
There didn’t seem to be any radio blackouts or power outages this time around, but we were treated to beautiful Northern Lights across Canada and the US.
The Sun is preparing for its most active period of the solar cycle (July 2025) and is already exceptionally active quite early. Your chances of spotting auroras are pretty good right now, but they will improve over the next three years.