Sun Eruption May Supercharge Northern Lights Monday
A view of Earth's dazzling auroras as seen by astronaut Doug Wheelock on the International Space Station on Sept. 5, 2010.
Credit: Astro_Wheels

The luminous aurora displays that make up Earth's northern lights may get a boost tonight (Sept. 13) from a weekend solar eruption.

Skywatchers in the northern latitudes could see dazzling auroras as a result of the sun eruption that occurred late Friday, according to Spaceweather.com, a website that monitors solar weather. [Amazing Aurora Photos]

The eruption was a coronal mass ejection that was not aimed directly at Earth but was expected to deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field, Spaceweather.com said. It could amplify the aurora displays for skywatchers in parts of Alaska, Canada, Iceland, Greenland and Scandavia, the website added.

Coronal mass ejections are huge eruptions of plasma into space. When aimed at Earth, the solar particles stream down the planet's magnetic field lines toward the poles.

The Sept. 10 sun eruption was observed by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, the agency's twin Stereo spacecraft and the Solar Heliospheric Observatory, all of which are constantly studying the sun.

Severe solar storms can cripple satellites and potentially knock out power grids on Earth.

Friday's coronal mass ejection came two days after another powerful solar flare.