Northern latitudes saw beautiful auroras on Monday night as a geomagnetic storm slammed into Earth’s magnetosphere. The storm began as a weak G1. Storms are classified on a five point system from G1 to G5.
But, by Tuesday morning it had intensified to a G4 according to the Space Weather Prediction Center. Spaceweather.com says this makes it the strongest geomagnetic storm of the current solar cycle.
The storm’s K-index reached an 8. If it were dark right now, a line stretching from southern Pennsylvania and to the west would be able to see bright auroras. Even parts of Washington D.C. may be able to see them. If the sun wasn’t out right now.
The image below shows what parts of the U.S. would see auroras if the storm maintains its intensity.
The most recent update from the Space Weather Prediction Center says the storm is periodically peaking at G4. If it holds together, a lot of people are going to be in for a treat when the sun goes down.
As for what caused the storm? Forecasters believe it was a combination of two coronal mass ejections from an active sunspot region. On March 11, NASA’s SDO captured this X2 flare erupting from the sun. It was also associated with a coronal mass ejection.
If this storm maintains its intensity until after dark, areas as far south as Tennessee could see auroras according to Brent Gordon, the Space Weather Prediction Center’s branch chief. Look to the horizon if you live in southern states.
The space weather models messed the forecasts up on this one. They were expecting a ‘glancing blow’ from the pair of mass ejections. Not a geomagnetic storm peaking at G4. So far, there have been no reports of adverse impacts from the storm. I just hope the storm maintains its intensity for just a few more hours.
If you manage to see any auroras tonight, take some pictures and email them to me. I would love to see them.
Top image via NASA’s Goddard Flickr page.