Solar Minimum May Cause Northern Lights To 'Disappear'

First Posted: Feb 02, 2017 03:24 AM EST

Scientists predict that the solar minimum will cause the aurora to disappear in many countries.

BBC reported that as sunspots continue to disappear, solar activity has been predicted to go quiet, affecting the occurrence of the aurora over its famous places. Scientists at the University of Reading forecasted that the activity will be at its lowest point in 300 years. This could mean that the natural light spectacle, which often appears in northern regions like Norway, Canada, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Ireland and Scotland, as well as in the southern parts of Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, will be confined to the polar regions.

The stunning aurora phenomenon is relative to the activity of the Sun. It is caused by the interaction of a stream of solar energetic particles (SEP), also known as the solar wind, with the Earth's magnetic field. Since the Earth's main star is about to reach the solar minimum, the appearance of the aurora would apparently be at its weakest point as well.

"The magnetic activity of the sun ebbs and flows in predictable cycles, but there is also evidence that it is due to plummet, possibly by the largest amount for 300 years," said Reading University's Dr. Mathew Owens, who studied the aurora with Prof. Mike Lockwood. "If so, the Northern Lights phenomenon would become a natural show exclusive to the polar regions, due to a lack of solar wind forces that often make it visible at lower latitudes."

Scientists have been noticing the decline in solar activity since late 2016. Towards the end of last year, NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory had seen the Sun almost clear of sunspots, indicating its lowest level of activity since 2011.

Perf Science reported that the solar minimum has been predicted to occur this year. It is when the solar activity reaches its lowest level within an 11-year cycle, prompting fewer solar storms and hardly visible sunspots.

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