icon bookmark-bicon bookmarkicon cameraicon checkicon chevron downicon chevron lefticon chevron righticon chevron upicon closeicon v-compressicon downloadicon editicon v-expandicon fbicon fileicon filtericon flag ruicon full chevron downicon full chevron lefticon full chevron righticon full chevron upicon gpicon insicon mailicon moveicon-musicicon mutedicon nomutedicon okicon v-pauseicon v-playicon searchicon shareicon sign inicon sign upicon stepbackicon stepforicon swipe downicon tagicon tagsicon tgicon trashicon twicon vkicon yticon wticon fm
25 Aug, 2016 19:16

Lawnmower accidentally triggers Northern Lights alert

Lawnmower accidentally triggers Northern Lights alert

Stargazers in the UK were left disappointed after a “Red Alert” was accidentally sent claiming the Northern Lights would be visible, only to learn a lawnmower had triggered the alert.

After a sensor at Lancaster University recorded a surge in geomagnetic activity on Tuesday, subscribers to the Aurora Watch UK mailing list received the auto-generated alert.

Normally, scientists track a number of magnetometers which monitor the Earth’s magnetic fields with a disturbance in these fields usually indicating the visibility of the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis.

This wasn't the case on this occasion though with only one sensor recording a spike in activity, which led scientists to question the reading.

All hopes were dashed soon after after it emerged a caretaker doing a spot of gardening had triggered the alert.

Aurora Watch discovered that a university staff member had been using “a sit-on mower” and after driving close to the sensor, the mower’s electric motor triggered a spike in activity resulting in the automatic alert to be issued.

The alert was withdrawn four hours after its release and Aurora Watch apologised for the mixup.

“We’ll work with the facilities team to try and avoid an incident such as this occurring in the future,” the group said in a statement.

Podcasts
0:00
19:57
0:00
22:49