If you're like me, you've spent years heeding forecasters telling you that the northern lights will DEFINITELY be visible tonight—and then seeing nothing but boring old night sky. Tonight, summon your faith and give it one last shot: There's a severe geomagnetic storm going on.
Lead image: Marko Kääriäinen/CC
According to the NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center, it all started on March 15, when two coronal mass ejections—or flares—spouted from the Sun. When those flares come in contact with the Earth's magnetic field, they trigger aurorae, among other more disruptive effects. Here's what the NOAA predicted the storm to look like:
Though they say the storm will "wane" towards the end of the day, it's possible that it will continue until nightfall—which means you could see the northern lights as far south as Alabama. Early this morning, this was the view captured by photographer Wendy Johnson in Alaska:
While a Flickr user named Hansenit captured this shot in Espoo Finland:
A storm of this severity could cause "possible widespread voltage control problems and some protective systems will mistakenly trip out key assets from the grid," says the NOAA, and could also affect spacecraft operation. It seems as though no major problems have been reported this afternoon, according to the Washington Post, which is good news.
Now we can simply bide our time until the sun sets, and cross our fingers that the aurora will be visible tonight. It's certainly visible from orbit, as astronaut Terry W. Virts—aka @astroterry—tweeted the following shot:
As always, you've got a way better chance of seeing it the further away you are from light pollution—eg, cities and suburbs. So pack up the car and drive as far as you can within reason. And if you do see it, please tell us about it below—or upload your photos, if you're lucky enough to get them.