A solar storm is headed for Earth on September 11 and could light up the sky with stunning auroras, reports Science Alert.
According to a notice by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), our planet is in for a moderate G2-level solar storm, which seems to be caused by a huge hole in the sun’s corona — the fiery atmosphere surrounding our solar system’s main star.
Even though the sun is about to enter the least active period of its 11-year cycle, also known as solar minimum, the corona is still vulnerable to “holes” opening up inside the sun’s atmosphere. These cooler, less dense spots of plasma can still unleash the rage of the solar wind even during periods of fewer solar flares and coronal mass ejections, spewing out electromagnetic radiation at very high speeds.
A weather forecast by the British Met Office notes that we could be facing solar winds of up to 600 kilometers per second (or around 1,350,000 miles per hour) in the next couple of days.
“The solar wind increased yesterday evening from low values (below 350 km/s for a time), with speeds rising to around 550-600 km/s in the early hours of Tuesday (September 11) morning,” reads the forecast.
The geomagnetic storm poised to hit Earth is definitely not the strongest known to occur. However, while it remains moderate of the 5-level scale, the G2-level solar storm has a good chance of giving rise to beautiful auroras, visible in both the Southern and Northern Hemisphere.
As the Inquisitr previously reported, auroras are created when solar winds — essentially an outflow of charged particles coming from the sun — seep into our planet’s magnetosphere (the region of space around a planet where charged particles interact with its magnetic field) and meet oxygen and nitrogen molecules.
The interaction of solar winds with charged oxygen atoms gives rise to green and yellow auroras, whereas the clash with nitrogen atoms produces rare blue auroras.
As NOAA points out, the northern lights, or aurora borealis, could be visible from Alaska and from the entire line of U.S. northern states, including Washington, Montana, North and South Dakota, Michigan, and Maine.
“The further north you are — say, upstate New York or upper Michigan — the more likely you are to see the aurora,” Rodney Viereck, a researcher with NOAA, said in a statement. “And you also need clear skies, because cloudy weather often blocks it.”
Have you ever wanted to see auroras, the rippling lights that sometimes paint the heavens with unearthly blues or greens? https://t.co/0AY0qemnyq— WTNH News 8 (@WTNH) September 11, 2018
ABC News reports that the auroras could put on a memorable show for residents in at least 15 U.S. states. The aurora map released today by the administration shows that the northern lights might even extend as low as Nebraska.
In Europe, the aurora borealis could light up the sky over parts of Scotland and Northern Ireland, according to an ovation model by the Met Office.
Meanwhile, the Southern hemisphere could also be treated to gorgeous auroras, known as the southern lights or aurora australis. Here, the light show should be visible from Antarctica, as well as the far southern tip of South America.