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Geomagnetic storms are space weather events that come in the form of solar coronal mass ejection (CMEs) that cause disturbances on Earth's magnetic field.

Science Times previously reported that space weather agencies, such as the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the British Met Office have both predicted that there will be a moderate geomagnetic storm on Monday night, which could lead to an aurora.

The geomagnetic storm will only reach a level G2, which is considered to be a mild solar storm on a five-level solar storm scale, which may cause power grid fluctuations, and affect satellite orientation. NOAA wrote that the space weather event could cause aurora that could be seen as low as New York, Wisconsin, and Washington state.

 Geomagnetic Storms and Intense Aurora: Do Solar Storms Cause Northern Lights?
(Photo : Wikimedia Commons)
The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, shines above Bear Lake, Alaska

Conditions Needed to Create Geomagnetic Storms

According to NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center, geomagnetic storms occur when there is an efficient energy exchange from the solar wind to the space environment that surrounds the planet. They are a result of variations in the solar wind that cause major changes in the currents, plasmas, and Earth's magnetosphere.

Several hours of sustained high-speed solar wind and a southward solar wind magnetic field at the dayside of the magnetosphere create the perfect solar wind conditions that cause geomagnetic storms.

This condition transfers energy from the solar wind into the Earth's magnetosphere, wherein the largest storms from this condition are linked to CMEs where billions of plasma from the Sun arrives at Earth. Past observations reveal that the most intense geomagnetic storms could arrive in 18 hours, while less intense solar storms could take several days to arrive on Earth.

Geomagnetic storms are rated from G1 to G5, wherein 1 is the weakest and 5 is the most damaging. They can cause considerable harm to electronics, electric grids, satellites, and radio communications.

ALSO READ: Aurora Borealis May Have Contributed to Sinking of Titanic, Suggests Meteorological Researcher

The Science Behind Northern Lights (Aurora borealis)

Galileo Galilei coined the term aurora borealis in 1619 after the Roman goddess of dawn Aurora and the Greek god of the north wind, Boreas. The earliest suspected records of the northern lights were in a 30,000-year-old cave painting in Europe, but other civilizations have also marveled at this beautiful celestial phenomenon.

According to Space.com, the science behind the northern lights was only studied in the 20th century when Kristian Birkeland proposed that the aurora borealis is caused by electrons emitted from sunspots after striking the Earth's magnetic field. His theory was later on proven correct by succeeding scientists.

The solar wind from the Sun slams into the upper atmosphere called the ionosphere and creates the aurora, which could either be in the Northern Hemisphere or Southern Hemisphere (aurora australis). Geomagnetic storms also result in intense auroras that change in the radiation belts and ionosphere.

Astronomer Billy Teets said that particles from the solar wind are deflected towards the planet's poles and interact with the atmosphere, creating fluorescence in the atmosphere.

The chemical composition of the atmosphere dictates the color of the aurora. Teets told Space.com that every type of atom or molecule absorbs and radiates its own set of colors. For instance, the red hue is produced by nitrogen molecules, while oxygen molecules produce green lights.

RELATED ARTICLE: NOAA: G2 Level Geomagnetic Storm and Aurora Borealis Predicted to Head South

Check out more news and information on Aurora Borealis in Science Times.