If you didn’t go to bed early on Sunday night, you might have noticed the northern lights or aurora borealis in full swing.
“The solar flare that produced this particular aurora was a large M-class flare,” said Bob Grossfeld, an astronomy instructor for Central Oregon Community College.
A solar flare painted the night sky for Central Oregonians to admire. Grossfeld said this is not a rarity.
“We’ve had three large storms already with this cycle and it’s not unusual to see northern lights,” said Grossfeld. “This one was unique because of how fast it got to us and how low latitude it went to.”
The event was so low people in Arizona and California could also see it.
The perfect conditions to witness the northern lights in Central Oregon include clear skies and no full moon.
The direct cause of the aurora borealis is sun cycle activity.
“The 11-year cycle of the sun goes through has to do with activity or sun spot activity,” Grossfeld said. “The more sun spot activity, the more opportunity we have for solar flares.”
So when will we be able to see this solar event again?
“Unfortunately, it looks like this particular storm is kind of subdued now,” said Grossfeld. “We may get a chance to see it [Monday night], but with moonlight and clouds, not likely.”
Since we are in the peak of the solar cycle, we will continue to see more flare activity. The cycle will continue to be in its peak for the next two years.
Grossfeld recommends the Space Weather website for updates and notifications about nearby aurora borealis.