Alberta Scientists discovered origins of Northern Lights

University of Alberta scientists may have discovered the origins of solar sub storms, the storms that cause Northern Lights.

The CBC is reporting that physicists Jonathan Rae and Ian Mann are claiming the development could provide a new tool in predicting space weather.

The two, along with a team of researchers, used five space satellites and several ground stations to pinpoint where the sub-storms come from. The find is particularly important to government and industry, because sub-storms not only cause the Northern Lights, they also have the potential to ruin communications satellites and disable spacecraft.

Basically, solar wind combines with the Earth’s magnetic field to produce these sub-storms. The scientists report that energy gets built-up far away from the earth, and then snaps back to Earth very quickly. This converts the built-up energy into kinetic and heat energy.

Scientists have learned that the whole process takes place a few hundred thousand kilometers above the Earth.

CBC says the scientists hope this knowledge will allow them to accurately predict sub-storms before they arrive, a process they likened to seismology in its use of vibrations to track earthquakes.

The Scientists will continue to study the sub-storms for three more years. Canada, the United States, and Europe are all involved in the research project.

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