Over the past couple of days we have seen a lot of activity from our sun in the form of powerful solar flares. With these solar flares the sun can release what are called “Coronal Mass Ejections” or CME’s that can hurl VERY hot plasma towards earth and effect everything from satellites circling the earth to our electrical grids here on the surface.
Here is a nice picture from the Solar Dynamics Observatory of a flare that was produced on Wednesday that was pointed right at the earth.
Thanks to the flare shown above and a previous (weaker) flare earlier in the week, two CME’s are now headed near earth and could potentially affect us in a variety of ways into the upcoming weekend. When a CME (or in this case two CME’s) come near earth they interact with our planets magnetosphere causing geomagnetic storms which increase electric current.
Because of this the National Weather Service’s Space Weather Prediction Center has issued a G3 Geomagnetic Storm Watch for September 13th (Saturday) So what is a G3 geomagnetic storm you might ask? Here is the criteria for a G3 storm per the Space Weather Prediction Center. (here is the entire scale for geomagnetic storms)
G3 STRONG Geomagnetic Storm
Power systems: voltage corrections may be required, false alarms triggered on some protection devices.
Spacecraft operations: surface charging may occur on satellite components, drag may increase on low-Earth-orbit satellites, and corrections may be needed for orientation problems.
Other systems: intermittent satellite navigation and low-frequency radio navigation problems may occur, HF radio may be intermittent, and aurora has been seen as low as Illinois and Oregon (typically 50° geomagnetic lat.)**.
OK, did you get all of that? The sun can potentially cause A LOT of problems here on earth with these types of solar storms. THANKFULLY this time around we’re expected to be just fine.
Now on to the title of this post! Will we see the Aurora Borealis because of this? The short answer is maybe! In past events similar to this the dazzling northern lights have been known to reach this far south. The best chance to catch a glimpse of them would definitely be Friday and Saturday night, at any point during the night just look north!
If you’re interested in more on solar storms and how they have impacted earth here are two excellent reads about the Carrington Event Of 1859 and The 1989 Blackout of Quebec BIG thanks to our Chief Engineer, Fred Vobbe for pointing out these significant events!