Severe geomagnetic storm underway: Northern Lights visible for many

CREDIT: Moyan Brenn / Aurora Borealis from September 2013

PHOTOS:

(WPRI/MEDIA GENERAL) – A geomagnetic storm is hitting the northern part of the U.S. and it’s considered severe. The storm means there will be some electronic disruptions and some amazing views of the Northern Lights.

Geomagnetic Storm

On Sunday, two powerful solar flares erupted from the sun and a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) was hurled toward the Earth. A CME is a burst of highly charged material and electromagnetic radiation from the sun. The Earth is being side-swiped by this CME, but it hit earlier and stronger than expected. There’s no need to worry about radiation. Our atmosphere protects us.

Disruptions

This storm will create some problems for those of us on Earth. Scientists say we may experience GPS mapping problems, including on cell phones, and HAM radio disruptions. Your television should be fine.

Northern Lights

One beautiful side-effect of this storm is the opportunity to see the Northern Lights, also known as the Auroras. Because this storm is so severe, in fact it’s measuring an 8.6 Kp number (that’s how the storm’s strength is measured), many more people might get the chance to see the Auroras. Those with the best bet live from Southern New England to Iowa to Oregon and north. However, it’s possible for it to stay strong enough for people as far south as Alabama to see the lights.

Timing

While it’s hard to forecast the Northern Lights outside of a few hours, scientists are surprised at how strong this storm is. The best chance to see something is between 11pm Tuesday to 2am Wednesday est. But, it’s possible to be seen all night.

Viewing

You’ll need clear skies to see the Northern Lights. Go to a dark place with lots of dark sky and look north. Be patient, according to T.J. Del Santo, WPRI meteorologist, the lights often “dance” in the sky and appear and reappear. If you want to take pictures, use longer exposures such as 10-20 seconds.

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