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The Kid Should See This

Are the northern lights dangerous?

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What is a solar storm? What causes auroras? And are the northern lights dangerous? Travel back in time to the historic night that “telegraph communications around the world began to fail.”

“In September 1859, miners following the Colorado gold rush woke up to another sunny day. Or so they thought. To their surprise, they soon discovered it was actually 1am and the sky wasn’t lit by the sun, but rather by brilliant drapes of light. The blazing glow was a solar stormβ€” the largest in recorded history.”

1859 auroras
From the Carrington Event to magnetic fields to coronal mass ejections and auroras, this TED-Ed lesson by Fabio Paccuci, directed by Nick Hilditch, explains these magical-looking astrophysical phenomena.

While the video ends on a slightly pessimistic note (to promote related videos), solar storms are not as dangerous or destructive as they might have been without human preparation. From the video:

“If we were hit by a storm as strong as the Carrington Event today, it could devastate our interconnected, electrified planet. Fortunately, we’re not defenseless. After centuries of observing sunspots, researchers have learned the Sun’s usual magnetic activity follows an 11-year cycle, giving us a window into when solar storms are most likely to occur.”

the sun's 11 year cycle

“And as our ability to forecast space weather has improved, so have our mitigation measures. Power grids can be shut off in advance of a solar storm, while capacitors can be installed to absorb the sudden influx of energy. Many modern satellites and spacecraft are equipped with special shielding to absorb the impact of a solar storm.”

speeding plasma
Watch aurora videos and more on TKSST, including:
β€’Β This is NOT time lapse: the Aurora Borealis in real time
β€’Β A Fort Yukon, Alaska 4K aurora timelapse compilation
β€’Β How is the Aurora Borealis created?
β€’Β A Decade of Sun: Ten years of SDO highlights
β€’Β How did the telegraph help win the American Civil War?
β€’Β Thin underwater cables hold the internet

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