Hi everyone! If you live in the northern latitudes, get ready for an active aurora night. A small M6.5 solar flare and resultant Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) recently left the sun, which will leave our atmosphere abuzz with the Northern Lights later tonight.
NASA scientists have captured a few images of this impressive solar flare on various instruments that measure solar output. Check out these incredible images:
This solar flare happened back on Thursday, and will be impacting us through the next 24-48 hours. In the image above, the solar flare is the bright area coming off of the dark circle (which is the sun). Mars is also visible here!
Another view from the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory:
From NASA: “This flare is classified as an M6.5 flare, some ten times less powerful than the strongest flares, which are labeled X-class flares. M-class flares are the weakest flares that can still cause some space weather effects near Earth. This flare produced a radio blackout that has since subsided. The blackout was categorized as an R2 on a scale between R1 and R5 on NOAA’s space weather scales.
This is the strongest flare seen so far in 2013. Increased numbers of flares are quite common at the moment, since the sun’s normal 11-year activity cycle is ramping up toward solar maximum, which is expected in late 2013. Humans have tracked this solar cycle continuously since it was discovered, and it is normal for there to be many flares a day during the sun’s peak activity.”
What does this mean for us here on Earth? We will likely be able to see the Northern Lights low on the horizon as far south as Seattle, Des Moines, Chicago, or Boston. The aurora could be visible overhead as far south as Duluth or Marquette as well.
This is the forecast from the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks:
Of course, this active aurora night will depend heavily on the cloud cover throughout the evening. Below is a cloud cover forecast, courtesy of HamWeather.com, that shows partly cloudy conditions in Duluth, MN late tonight/early tomorrow. This looks like the best shot at viewing, but good luck to all of you who go out!
Of course, if you capture any aurora photos, we’d love to see them! Send your photos directly to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get them on the air ASAP.
Happy Aurora Hunting! And have a great Saturday! – Meteorologist Miranda Hilgers