Another solar flare could bring weekend auroral show to Alaska

Posted: Friday, April 13, 2001

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Alaskans and residents of other northern states could be treated to the aurora borealis this weekend, thanks to another flare up on the sun.

The latest flare occurred Thursday, continuing two weeks of activity on the sun, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

It came from the same region on the sun that produced a pair of mass ejections Tuesday, NOAA's Space Environment Center in Boulder, Colorado reported.

''The sun rotates about 15 degrees each day, so this area should be going away in a few days,'' said NOAA's Joseph Kunches. But the region that was really active two weeks ago will be coming around again. ''We're waiting for the arrival of that one.''

Scientists say the sun is experiencing ''solar max,'' a period of strong activity that happens about every 11 years and lasts for about three or four years.

These disturbances blast radiation and particles out into space, some of which can affect Earth. The planet's magnetic field channels the radiation around the Earth, funneling some of it to the poles to produce the most commonly noticed effect, the glowing aurora borealis.

The powerful electromagnetic pulses also can affect satellites and communications and can even disrupt electrical service over long distances.

Eric Ort, a space weather forecaster for NOAA, said the activity could arrive in Alaska sometime before dawn Saturday.

Dave Vonderheide with the National Weather Service said people can expect early morning skies to be more clear north and west of Anchorage. On Saturday night, skies are generally expected to range from partly cloudy to cloudy.

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