The Sun’s active cycle continues as a geomagnetic storm is predicted to produce stunning aurora lights further away from the poles, stretching from Seattle to Boston. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) has issued a G2 (Moderate) Geomagnetic Storm Watch for Tuesday.
The SWPC reported the observation of a coronal mass ejection (CME) on September 14. The Earth-directed component from this CME is expected to arrive early on Tuesday. Additionally, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded 9 M-class flares, 22 coronal mass ejections, and one geomagnetic storm during the past week.
While most people need not be concerned, a Geomagnetic Storm Watch helps government agencies, power providers, telecommunication companies, and satellite operators prepare for potential impacts on their systems. Geomagnetic storms have the ability to expand the normally occurring aurora borealis lights or Northern Lights into the northern edge of the United States.
The effects of this geomagnetic storm, including aurora lights, will occur late Monday night and into Tuesday morning. The University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute has predicted highly active auroral displays overhead in Alaska and Canada. In the U.S. Northern Tier, including cities like Seattle, Great Falls, Des Moines, Minneapolis, Chicago, and Boston, auroras will likely be visible low on the horizon.
To witness the dancing lights, it is ideal to have cloud-free skies between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., according to the SWPC. Additionally, a recent new moon increases the chances of observing the aurora lights. Moonlight and city lights can obscure the visibility of the Northern Lights when they are potentially visible in the northern United States.
If the weather conditions do not permit viewing the lights on Tuesday, there will be more opportunities in the coming months. As the Sun is currently in an active period of its solar cycle, which lasts approximately 11 years.