Space weather causes electrical surge on Earth’s surface, say astronomers

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Space weather is believed to be behind mysterious electrical currents detected in the ground in northern Norway recently.

The currents were picked up by sensors at the Polarlightcenter, an observatory dedicated to the study of the aurora borealis, or northern lights.

The observatory has a number of sensors to measure the electromagnetic forces that create the aurora. On January 6 these sensors detected “a sudden, strong variation in both ground currents and our local magnetic field,” said Rob Stammes, who was working at the Polarlightcenter on the night in question.

“It seemed to be some kind of shockwave,” Stammes told Spaceweather.com.

According to Spaceweather.com, shortly before the electrical currents were detected in Norway, NASA observed a 180° swing in the interplanetary magnetic field near Earth and a steep surge in the density of the solar wind.

Writing for Spaceweather.com, astronomer Dr Tony Phillips said the currents were likely the result of Earth crossing through a fold in the heliospheric current sheet, a giant, wavy membrane of electrical current caused by the sun’s rotating magnetic field.

The current sheet, which ripples throughout the solar system, causes only relatively low levels of electrical current when Earth passes through it and unlike solar storms is unlikely to have any major impact on infrastructure on Earth.

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