A huge, canyon-shaped gash in the sun’s atmosphere has been sending a steady stream of solar wind in our direction and the result will be a geomagnetic storm that could put on quite a show with the lights of the aurora borealis reaching as far south as Kansas, Missouri, Kentucky and Washington, D.C.
Forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have issued a G2-class or moderate geomagnetic storm watch for September 11, with a good chance of the northern lights reaching as far south as Nebraska, Iowa and Chicago. If we’re lucky, they could extend near the Mason-Dixon Line.
Aurorae are created by charged particles from the sun colliding with Earth’s magnetic field. The “coronal hole” in the sun’s atmosphere is a magnetically open area that is allowing a deluge of high-speed solar wind (the charged particles) to flood into space.
So if you’re in Canada, Alaska or the northern half of the lower 48 United States, it’s worth keeping an eye out in the late evening and early morning hours Monday night / Tuesday evening. Obviously the best viewing comes with cloudless skies, although bright aurora have been known to light up thin cloud cover with color.
Remember to also avoid light pollution and look to the north for the best chance to catch those dancing collisions of tiny particles fleeing the sun.