Friday, December 15, 2006

Look for Auroras Tonight and Tomorrow

We're currently at the Solar Minimum, or the point in the 11-year solar cycle where the Sun doesn't really do too much.  However, there has been some strong activity over the past few days that have caused geomagnetic storming here on Earth.

A Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) passed by Earth yesterday, which started a strong GM storm.  This resulted in the Northern Lights being seen in lower Michigan and Ohio, and possibly even further away.

Another CME that resulted from a X1 solar flare on Dec 14 will reach our planet some time in the next day.  This will most likely enhance the storm levels again to the Strong, Severe, or possibly even Extreme levels.

For those of us not worried about keeping satellites in orbit, or maintaining a working electric power grid, this usually means that we can go somewhere dark (away from city lights) and look to the North for an absolutely beautiful display of nature.  Be advised that during particularly strong storms, you may need to look up, or even to the South (depending on your latitude) because the Auroras would have been pushed that far away from the magnetic poles.

Disclaimer: I have seen instances where an incoming CME completely halts all GM activity, so don't be surprised if nothing at all happens.  It's important to be patient when hunting the Aurora.  It's well worth the wait if you find an active display in session.