Attention sky watchers: the auroras are coming.
A massive hole in the sun’s corona opened up a few days ago, sending an equally large geomagnetic storm hurtling toward Earth. And with that storm comes the potential for a stunning display of the Northern Lights all the way down in the United States.
According to ScienceAlert, this storm will be a rather rare event as the Earth is currently heading into what is known as a “solar minimum,” which is a time of low activity during the sun’s cycle. And all that means fewer solar flares and fewer aurora sightings.
However, the site added, holes in the sun can still occur, which “allow the solar winds to escape more easily, blowing electromagnetic radiation into space at high speeds.”
Tonight’s storm will likely be a level G2 solar storm, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Solar storms are measured on a scale of G1 to G5, with G5 accounting for the largest and fiercest storms. If a G5 were to strike the planet it would likely cause rolling blackouts around the globe. However, a G2 is a more moderate storm, which will merely intensify the aurora borealis, bringing it further south than usual.
Just how far south will the light show go? According to NOAA, Alaska will almost certainly be in for a show, while northern states like Washington, North and South Dakota, Michigan, and Maine could see the lights as well. If we’re really, really lucky, the lights may even extend as low as Nebraska.
If you happen to be really far south tonight in Antarctica, you could see the sky light up as well. Those lights, however, are known as the aurora australis, or the Southern Lights, and are equally as beautiful.
As always, ensure you’re away from city lights, in a dark place where you can look up to the sky to try and catch a glimpse of this rare event by Mother Nature. Just make sure to pack something warm to wear and bring a buddy to experience it together.