Aurora watching in the UK?
The recent heightened level of solar activity culminated on 7 January with an explosion of billions of tonnes of electrically charged plasma from the Sun, an event known as a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME).
Hurtling towards Earth at about a million miles an hour, this CME was expected to arrive at the Earth's magnetosphere on the morning of 9 January. The impact had the potential to spark a geomagnetic storm of sufficient intensity to bring a display of the aurora borealis, or northern lights, to the skies over the UK.
Coinciding with BBC Two's "Stargazing Live" broadcasts, the possibility of auroral displays over the UK led to the AuroraWatch team in the Department of Physics being inundated with media enquiries and public interest.
The AuroraWatch UK service, which provides members of the public with free alerts when auroral displays are likely to occur, attracted over 5,000 new subscribers in 24 hours, with another 20,000 new users opting to get updates via Facebook and Twitter.
However, the CME slowed down markedly on its journey through interplanetary space and the orientation of the magnetic field within it was not favourable for it to magnetically couple into the Earth's magnetosphere. Consequently, aurorae were not pushed sufficiently far south from their usual location at the edge of the Arctic circle to be seen from the UK.
Professor Farideh Honary, who leads the AuroraWatch UK project, said "This is a perfect demonstration of the challenges space scientists face when forecasting the impact of space weather on our planet. A chain of events need to occur for solar activity to disturb our planet's space environment sufficiently enough for the northern lights to be driven down to the UK from their usual location at the edge of the Arctic. It doesn't happen often and is difficult to predict with any certainty more than an hour or so in advance, but our AuroraWatch alerts can tip the odds in favour of UK aurora hunters."
Written in the Sky: Aurora borealis uncovered An Institute of Physics film featuring Lancaster Space Scientist Prof. Jim Wild
Fri 10 January 2014
School of Computing and Communications computer scientists are at the forefront of a UK-wide BBC initiative launched on March 12th to inspire a new generation to get creative with coding, programming and digital technology.
Story supplied by LU Press Office
Tue 31 March 2015
A Faculty team representing science, technology, engineering and maths took part in EDF Energy's 'Science Day' on Saturday 21st March at Heysham Power Station.
Wed 25 March 2015
Professor Roger Jones has replaced Professor Peter Ratoff as Head of the Physics Department. Roger gained a PhD studying neutrino interactions at CERN and Fermilab before starting his career at CERN working at the Large Electron-Positron (LEP) Collider.
Tue 24 March 2015
As part of British Science week, 170 students from 14 schools across the region came to Lancaster University on Wednesday 18th March to compete in science, technology, engineering and mathematics challenges.
Mon 23 March 2015