(NEXSTAR) – The Sun has been active over the past few days, producing solar flare events, powerful flare events, and now, multiple coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which could bring the northern lights to part of the United States this week.
Although these terms may seem vague, they are normal activities of the Sun, especially during the phase it is in now: solar cycle 25.
Solar cycles are 11-year periods when the Sun flips its magnetic poles, triggering space weather such as flares and CMEs, which are explosions of plasma and magnetic material from the Sun that can reach Earth in as little as 15 to 18 hours, NOAA He explains. NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) reported last month that we It is approaching the peak of the current solar cycle.
As part of this, we can expect to see the activities that SWPC has been monitoring over the past few days. Last week, the Solar Power Monitoring Center (SWPC) detected several flares on the Sun, which could affect those using high frequencies. Radio signals Although it does not greatly affect the general public.
Friday, SWPC mentioned A minor solar radiation storm event, the agency warned, was “not unusual” and caused only minor impacts to those using high-frequency radios and “a possible slight risk of launch into space.” Later that day, the agency mentioned There was a Polar Cap Absorption (PCA) event which, again, only had a potential impact on those using high frequency communications in the polar regions.
On Sunday, the General Water Authority issued a Watch the geomagnetic storm This will continue until Wednesday due to the possibility of many coronal emissions reaching Earth and leading to increased geomagnetic activity.
according to NASAA coronal ejection can create currents in Earth's magnetic fields that send particles to the north and south poles. When these particles interact with oxygen and nitrogen, they can create the northern lights.
“It's basically the sun shooting a magnet into space,” Bill Murtagh, SWPC program coordinator and veteran space weather forecaster, previously told Nexstar. “This magnet affects the Earth's magnetic field and we get this big interaction.”
This interaction is known as a geomagnetic storm. The strength of the storm will affect how far south the northern lights can be seen.
To denote the strength of geomagnetic storms, SWPC uses a 5-point scale. At the lower end are G1, which are described as minor storms that can produce auroras in the Upper Peninsula of Maine and Michigan. A G5 storm, described as severe, could send the northern lights into the southern United States
SWPC says that through Wednesday, coronal emissions will likely cause G1 to G2 level geomagnetic storm conditions. This is not uncommon: a moderate G2 geomagnetic storm hit Earth last month after that An explosion of solar material has been detected.
While the general public has no concerns when it comes to these storms, there is a chance for those who live in the northern parts of the United States to see the northern lights.
Based on the current forecast from SWPC, it appears that the northern United States' best chance of catching the aurora is Monday night. The map on the left below shows the forecast for Monday. Areas in red have a higher probability of seeing the aurora borealis, while areas in green have a lower probability. Those who live as far south as the red line on the map still have the possibility of seeing the northern lights if they look towards the northern horizon.
Alaska and most of Canada have the highest chance of seeing the aurora borealis on Monday and Tuesday, as they usually do thanks to their proximity to the North Pole. Fourteen states are at or above latitude, which means they have at least a slight chance of seeing the aurora borealis on Monday. These states include Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, northern Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
Tuesday's forecast, shown on the map to the right above, shows that the aurora borealis are less likely to illuminate the night sky, even for Alaska and Canada. However, some northern states can still catch a glimpse of the northern lights. States at or above the latitude include Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and northern Maine.
As you can tell, the further north you are, the greater the chance of seeing the aurora borealis when it glows.
If you live in the South, such as Texas or Florida, It would need a much stronger geomagnetic storm event For a chance at the northern lights.
According to SWPC size, a minor G1 storm causes aurora borealis to appear commonly in the Upper Peninsula of Maine and Michigan. A moderate G2 storm could bring the northern lights slightly south to New York and Idaho.
When the storm reaches G3 status, the aurora can be seen as far south as Illinois and Oregon. If it reaches G4 strength, those living in Alabama and Northern California may have a chance to see the northern lights. The solar activity that causes a G5 storm, the highest possible level on the SWPC scale, is known to produce auroras in Florida and even south Texas.
If you live in a southern state like Florida, Texas, or even Hawaii, in addition to a G4 or G5 storm, you'll also need a few other pieces to align perfectly, according to Murtagh. This includes the storm's impact on the ground around 8 or 9 p.m. (so you can actually see the lights), clear skies, and a view away from the light pollution caused by cities and towns.
However, more severe geomagnetic storms are rare. For example, a G1 storm can occur 1,700 times per solar cycle (more on that later), or about 900 days every 11 years. A G5 storm may occur only about four times during a solar cycle.
Copyright 2024 Nexstar Media Inc. all rights are save. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
“Infuriatingly humble alcohol fanatic. Unapologetic beer practitioner. Analyst.”