Astronomy: Northern lights over Thuringia: Observatory sets up telescope

Northern lights are usually seen in the night sky in northern climes. But also the people in Thuringia have a good chance of observing the play of colors of green, red and pink in the near future. The reason is the currently increased solar activity, which will probably continue into next year, explained Eike Guenther from the state observatory in Tautenburg. Recently, however, it was often cloudy at night, which made sightings difficult. In many places in Germany, people have observed the northern lights in the past few days and weeks.

These lights arise when particles emitted by the sun enter the Earth’s atmosphere, as Guenther said. Normally this can be observed in a ring around the poles. But at regular intervals there is more solar activity and the play of colors is also visible in southern regions. The cycle for solar activity is usually eleven years.

According to Guenther, it is currently possible to say one day in advance when the color games will arrive on earth. For this purpose, radiation bursts are observed on the side of the sun that faces Earth. The particles are traveling towards Earth at 1000 kilometers per second.

The state observatory is currently building a telescope for solar research, and the first live images should be available in the spring. “We can then look through the sun and measure sunspots on the back,” explained Guenther. The number of sunspots is something of a measure of the sun’s activity – the more of them discovered, the more likely solar flares are. The particles thrown into space can then cause the northern lights.

With the new telescope you can then determine when there is a large group of spots on the back of the sun that will eventually arrive on the front and can lead to auroras, said Guenther. This means that the lights could theoretically be predicted weeks in advance.

© dpa-infocom, dpa:231112-99-915079/2

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