Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Geomagnetic storm, auroras possible January 23, 24, & 25, 2012

NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) and STEREO missions detected a strong M9 class solar flare and associated Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) on January 23 at about 3:59 Universal Time (11:59 pm on January 22 EST). The associated moderate geomagnetic storm may cause aurora borealis activity in the northern United States.

M solar flares are the second strongest classification of solar flares, with X solar flares being the strongest. This solar flare was almost strong enough for the X classification.

The CME is headed in Earth's direction and will likely cause a moderate geomagnetic storm on January 24 (UT Date) and a minor geomagnetic storm on January 25 (UT date). In North American time zones, the new Universal Time date begins in the evening hours (8 pm in the EST zone). Hence the geomagnetic storms will extend from the nights of January 23/24 to January 24/25 in North America.

The geomagnetic storm may have some small effects on the power grids at high latitudes. The effect most noticeable to the average person will however be the possibility of aurora or northern lights. The interactions between the charged particles in the CME and Earth's magnetic field cause the aurora, also known as the northern or southern lights.

On the night of January 23/24, during the moderate geomagnetic storm, observers as far south as the latitudes of New York and Idaho have a good chance of seeing the northern lights. On the night of January 24/25 the geomagnetic storm, if it follows predictions, will subside to a minor geomagnetic storm. Minor geomagnetic storms typically cause auroral activity as far south as the latitudes of Michigan and Maine in North America. Space weather predictions are not always right, so there is no guarantee of Aurora, but there is a strong possibility.

To observe the northern lights go outside to a dark clear location with a flat northern horizon. Look towards the north. No optical instruments are needed. Aurora are best seen with the naked eye.
Source: examiner , UnhealthyEarth

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