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Fwd = Northern Lights mistaken for UFOs

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  • Frits Westra
    Forwarded by: fwestra@hetnet.nl URL: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_1254000/1254851.stm Original Date: Tue, 3 Apr 2001 00:43:12 +0200
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 3, 2001
      Forwarded by: fwestra@...
      URL: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_1254000/1254851.stm
      Original Date: Tue, 3 Apr 2001 00:43:12 +0200 (CEST)

      ========================== Forwarded message begins ======================

      Sunday, 1 April, 2001, 16:28 GMT 17:28 UK

      Solar storms spark light show

      People in western parts of the United States have been treated to
      impressive light shows in the night sky caused by intense storms
      raging on the Sun.

      Residents in Nevada, California, and Arizona witnessed a shimmering
      display of the red and green Northern Lights on Friday night following
      the eruption of solar flares.

      Satellite readings show that the biggest sunspot cluster for at least
      10 years has developed on the upper right quarter of the side of the
      Sun visible from Earth.

      The colourful shimmering glow of the Northern Lights occurs when
      energetic particles resulting from the eruptions strike the Earth's
      upper atmosphere.

      Colour and shape

      Thousands of people in Nevada enjoyed what astronomers were describing
      as the best display of the Northern Lights in at least 20 years.

      Keith Johnson, associate director of the Fleischmann Planetarium at
      the University of Nevada, Reno, said he had never seen such a luminous
      display of the lights so far south.

      He said the skies had begun to glow red, and then light-green coloured
      rays had begun to appear as darkness fell on Friday.

      He said: "It was sensational. You could see some actual colour, shape
      and structure to the displays.

      "I saw large lumps of light, rays of light and sheets of light. I even
      saw some slow motion in them. The colours were obvious but not very

      Mistaken for UFOs

      Light from the solar flares was also reported near cities including
      Palm Springs and Sacramento in California, Flagstaff, Arizona, and
      Albuquerque and Carlsbad in New Mexico.

      Bill Seigel, a producer at radio station KESQ in Palm Desert, east of
      Los Angeles, said some callers to the station had thought the lights
      were UFOs.

      "It has totally lit up the sky," he said. "We've had dozens and dozens
      of calls. People want to know what it is."

      In Eddy County, New Mexico, Deputy Danny Gonzales described the night
      sky as a purple haze.

      He said: "It was very distinct in colour. I have never seen anything
      like it."

      Meteorologist Anthony Watts, based in Chico, California, said the glow
      from the solar eruptions was interesting, but did not pose any danger.

      However, some disruption was expected to telecommunications and radio
      and TV signals. On Friday, the eruptions triggered a brief blackout on
      some high-frequency radio channels and low-frequency navigational

      Clouds of gas

      The sunspot group, which is a cooler, darker region on the Sun's
      surface, is caused by a concentration of temporarily distorted
      magnetic fields. This triggers tremendous eruptions into the Sun's
      atmosphere, hurling clouds of electrified gas toward Earth.

      This particular sunspot group, designated Noaa 9393, is about 140,000
      km (86,800 miles) in diameter, according to the National Science
      Foundation (NSF).

      It is so big that it can be seen by unaided, providing filters are
      used to protect the eyes from damage, the NSF says.

      Although very large by normal standards, Noaa 9393 falls some way
      short of the largest ever recorded. That title is held by a spot group
      which appeared in 1947. It was three times larger than Noaa 9393.

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