Monday, October 10, 2016

"Aurora Storm Watch" This Week

Calling all of you lovers of astronomy and space. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center has issued an aurora storm watch from Wednesday evening at 7 PM through Thursday evening at 7 PM. That is in response to a Coronal Mass Ejection (CM), or a high speed solar wind stream, that is expected to emanate on the sun's surface and head towards Earth.
The storm itself could have multiple impacts on Earth, including a beautiful display of the Northern Lights caused by the rapidly moving charged particles associated with a CME.

That means that during the above mentioned 24-hour period, the Coronal Mass Ejection will affect Earth. But what exactly will it lead to? And, will the Northern Lights be visible in Illinois? Possibly.
Other than the interaction of the CME with Earth's magnetic field leading to a Northern Lights display, NOAA says these types of storms can cause problems for satellites and electrical grids.

For this particular event, scientists predict a Kp number (Geomagnetic Activity Level) of roughly 5. However, that can change as the particles approach Earth's atmosphere, and things become clearer.
So what exactly does a Kp number of 5 represent for northern Illinois? Well, every location has a Kp number that must be reached -- or close to it -- in order for that location to see the Aurora Borealis. There is a map above that shows Rockford can possibly see the Northern Lights if a Kp of roughly 6-7 occurs.

It's important to remember that the storm could come in with a higher Kp than 5. It's also important to know that the Kp number doesn't have to reach 6 or 7. If a strong Kp storm occurs, Rockford could see a faint display of the lights.

Skies are expected to be clearing Wednesday evening, which will lead to a clear night. Therefore, if you head to a place away from city centers -- ideally in Wisconsin -- you may be fortunate enough to see a glimpse of the lights.

However, the storm may hit at any time between 7pm Wednesday and 7pm Thursday. If it arrives during the daytime on Thursday, the other side of Earth will see the lights as they will be in darkness.
So, if you're hoping to catch a potential sighting of the Northern Lights, keep your fingers crossed for a Wednesday night arrival of the CME, in addition to a Kp number of more than 5!

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