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I thought Auroras are only visible in the North Pole and South Pole, but recently, I found out that Auroras can be seen in areas of the world closer to the equator.

An example is that in the year 1909, a great storm of Auroras were seen in Japan and other countries.

This made me wonder: could an Aurora be seen in equatorial regions, too?

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  • $\begingroup$ I don't have time to do the research, but as one possible approach to answering it'd be interesting to know what the minimum latitude is at which auroras have been recorded overhead, and then do the geometry to work out how close to the equator one could be and see them on the northern/southern horizon. $\endgroup$ – Semidiurnal Simon Jun 27 '14 at 14:05
  • $\begingroup$ It isn't possible without simultaneously knocking out the most of the world's electric grid ;) $\endgroup$ – Chris Mueller Jun 27 '14 at 15:13
  • $\begingroup$ Well, you might be able to see it if you were really high up above the equator (like, a few thousand kilometres), if that still counts as "equatorial regions" :P Apparently the Aurora Australis can be visible as far north as southern New South Wales, which is about 36° South, about the same latitude as Tokyo. $\endgroup$ – naught101 Jul 2 '14 at 9:44
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    $\begingroup$ @ChrisMueller: That's probably why you don't see pictures of equatorial aurorae on social media. ;-) $\endgroup$ – jvriesem Jan 23 '16 at 17:54
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Quoting from the Wikipedia article on the Solar Storm of 1859;

On September 1–2, 1859, the largest recorded geomagnetic storm occurred. Aurorae were seen around the world, those in the northern hemisphere even as far south as the Caribbean; those over the Rocky Mountains were so bright that their glow awoke gold miners, who began preparing breakfast because they thought it was morning.[2] People who happened to be awake in the northeastern US could read a newspaper by the aurora's light.[4] The aurora was visible as far from the poles as Cuba and Hawaii.

So, it didn't quite make it to the equator, but it came very close. There is no physical reason why you can't get aurora at the equator, but it takes a lot of very energetic particles being ejected by the sun over a brief period.

However, as I mentioned in my comment, a solar storm of that magnitude would wipe out most of the Earth's electric grids. Even the telegraph systems of the 1800's couldn't survive. Another quote from the Wikipedia article;

Telegraph systems all over Europe and North America failed, in some cases giving telegraph operators electric shocks.[6] Telegraph pylons threw sparks.[7] Some telegraph systems continued to send and receive messages despite having been disconnected from their power supplies.[8]

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    $\begingroup$ With sufficient warning and unplugging, the electric grid could be preserved. It's just a question of how prepared we are. As recently as 1989, a solar storm blacked out Quebec. They'd have to power down during the storm, but they could bring it back on line fairly quickly after the storm passes provided they're correctly prepared. $\endgroup$ – userLTK Apr 6 '15 at 8:51

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