Scientists this week noticed a dark croissant shaped hole on the surface of the Sun. A strong solar wind is flowing from this coronal hole. This will be of interest to astronomy enthusiasts in Donegal as it means the possibility of lower than normal latitude aurora (northern lights) in early February. The Sun’s rotation means that this coronal hole and thus, the solar wind, will be pointing towards Earth between the 2nd and 4th of February. This will be the best time to possibly see the northern lights from Donegal in quite some time. Unfortunately, the weather is not looking too promising. However, should you notice a gap in the clouds, look towards the north for a shimmering curtain of green/red light rising from the horizon. The aurora borealis is caused by charged particles from the solar wind colliding with neutral atoms in the Earth’s upper atmosphere resulting in the release of photons (light particles). The combined effect of many photons being released from many atoms results in the aurora display you can see.
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