Materials from the Sun hitting Earth’s atmosphere could create a vivid Northern Lights display for parts of the upper Midwest and northern U.S. early this week.
NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center issued a Geomagnetic Storm Watch for Monday through Wednesday after a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) was observed sending plasma toward Earth. Minor to moderate geomagnetic storming is forecast, according to the SWPC. The storm watch helps inform telecommunication, power and space industry companies of potential impacts from space weather. However, the public won’t be impacted.
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Solar wind causes the reactions in Earth’s atmosphere that create the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights. Intense space weather events can cause Aurora lights to appear farther away from Earth’s poles, which could be the case this week.
How far away from the poles the lights reach can be determined by the forecaster “Kp” index, which is on a 1-9 scale measuring the geomagnetic storm intensity.
According to SWPC’s Aurora dashboard, a Kp 6 is forecast for Monday night, offering the best chance to see the Northern Lights across the northern U.S. A potential nor’easter moving into the Northeast will obscure views for those in the Northeast and part of the Great Lakes regions.
Those in Chicago able to get away from city lights will have less cloud cover Monday night. Cities including Minneapolis, Cleveland and Bismarck, North Dakota, will also have a shot at seeing the Northern Lights.
On Tuesday, aurora lights are once again possible in the far northern U.S. However, clouds will once again be heavy across much of the viewing area.
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CMEs take between one and three days to reach Earth’s atmosphere. Over the past week, NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded 19 CMEs streaming from the Sun.