Aurora-chasing photographers may want to pay attention this week after the Sun emitted a powerful solar storm directly at Earth.
The high levels of radiation have already caused shortwave radio blackouts in the polar regions, according to Space Weather.
The solar outburst is predicted to supercharge the aurora display, with the northern lights expected to be visible as far south as New York. But if it is very strong, the dazzling lights could be seen even further south.
As reported by IFL Science, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration aurora dashboard currently predicts mild storm activity from 23:00 on Wednesday night to 03:00 Thursday morning (UTC.) “With a chance of isolated G2 (moderate) storms and a slight chance of G3 (strong)”, this would make for optimum viewing times in North America.
Much like the weather on Earth, space weather forecasts can be prone to change at any moment. Photographers are advised to pay attention to aurora predicting weather apps.
On Sunday evening, an M1.5 solar flare was reported and on Monday morning it was accompanied by a coronal mass ejection (CME). Both of these events can trigger geomagnetic storms when high-energy photos or charged particles encounter the Earth’s upper atmosphere.
If you don’t get to catch the aurora lights this time then fear not, it’s predicted that the auroras will continue to appear further south than usual for a few years to come.
This is because of a shift in the Sun’s magnetic fields, which flip on an 11-year cycle. Experts predict that the solar maximum will be reached in 2025, meaning the area on Earth where the lights are visible will widen until then.
“When we’re in the minimum part of the solar cycle, the sun is very quiet, basically nothing going on,” Dr. Taylor Cameron, a research scientist with the Canadian Hazards Information Service, tells The New York Times.
“And then at maximum, we’ve got lots of solar flares, lots of coronal mass ejections. The Sun is just much more active.”
Image credits: Header photo licensed via Depositphotos.