You may not realize it, but right now you are in the heart of a major storm – a major solar storm, that is, and it’s powerful enough that it may just bring a rare sight – the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights – to parts of the U.S. Tuesday night, The Seattle Times is reporting.
On Sunday evening (Earth time), two powerful magnetic blasts of plasma (that is, Coronal Mass Ejections, or CME’s) left the sun and started making their way toward our corner of the solar system. They combined into one solar superstorm, so to speak, and it’s a doozie: it ranks G4 on a five-point scale.
Space Weather Alert: Geomagnetic K-index of 8 (G4) http://t.co/tXRoN2egxx #spaceweather
— Space Weather (@spaceweather) March 17, 2015
The powerful electromagnet storm arrived late Monday night/Tuesday morning, bringing spectacular auroras visible across much of northern Europe, as well as Canada, and even as far south as Illinois, according to The Washington Post.
— Keith Moore (@kmoorephotos) March 17, 2015
Normally, the Northern Lights aren’t visible in the Lower 48 because the mainland is so far south. But in rare cases solar storms, such as the current one, can bring the Northern Lights as far south as northern Michigan, or even further south.
The good news is that the solar storm that brought the northern lights to the northernmost portions of the Lower 48 Monday night is expected to continue into Wednesday. The storm is already much stronger than expected, reports Korea Times, and it may even intensify. If that happens, the northern lights just might be visible as far south as southern Missouri.
The bad news is that solar storms, such as the one punishing the earth right now, can wreak havoc on communications satellites, power grids, and GPS navigation systems. However, as of this post, no major disruptions have been reported.
Tonight could be a good night for seeing the Northern Lights – that is, if you are away from city lights, and aren’t expected to be under cloud cover: the moon is only a thin crescent tonight, meaning the skies should be relatively dark.
If you want to see the Northern Lights, all you have to do is step outside and look north. If you see them, please share your experiences in the Comments below.