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Is it possible for auroral activity to slightly activate a florescent light causing it to flicker on and off ?
Question Date: 2012-08-15
Answer 1:

I think you are talking about the aurora borealis lights when you say "auroral activity". If so, it is possible, but most likely improbable. The auroral activity that is seen in the northern hemisphere is due to our Earth's magnetic sphere pulling in atoms that are given off by our Sun. When these atoms enter the Earth's atmosphere, they are excited, and then return to their ground state (the not excited state). These atoms need energy to be added to them to become excited. When the atoms give off their excitement, they produce light, depending on the type of atom. This is just like fireworks, where different atoms will give off different colors. Sometimes, this energy can be given to another atom or molecule, and this is where it is possible for fluorescence. If enough energy is directly transferred from the atoms entering the atmosphere to a fluorescent light, it may flicker. The improbability for this happening comes from the fact that the atoms must be in very close contact with a fluorescent light (or molecule) to transfer that energy. So if the fluorescent light is inside a house, I would say some other sort of energy was added to the fluorescent light to have it flicker on and off.

Answer 2:

Yes, but it would have to be such powerful auroral activity that it would do a lot of other things, too.

Auroras are caused by the Earth's magnetic field directing the solar wind, which being a plasma is electrically charged, into the polar atmosphere, and the light that you see comes from those electrically charged particles striking the ionosphere and heating it up. Anything possessing a charge like that or arriving as a plasma creates an electromagnetic pulse, which induces currents in anything that conducts electricity. This can destroy electronics.

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