Tonight, February 15th, those of us in the northern region of the United States may be able to see an incredible cosmic occurrence. A solar flare erupted on the surface of the Sun on Sunday night, February 11th. This eruption caused a coronal mass ejection, or an explosion of magnetic field and plasma, which is currently headed towards Earth.
These destructive-sounding words make it seem like we should migrate to underground bunkers to await our doom. But there’s no need. The solar storm might actually be a beautiful experience.
Will we be able to see the solar storm here on Earth?
A solar storm can increase the brightness of auroras, the cosmic phenomenon we colloquially call the Southern or Northern Lights. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) noted in an announcement today that this solar storm may produce an aurora “visible at high latitudes, i.e., norther tier of the U.S. such as northern Michigan and Maine.” Those in Canada and Alaska also have a good chance of catching a glimpse of the aurora.
NOAA noted that us earthlings may also experience issues with our technology. Solar storms could cause some areas to experience weak power grid fluctuations. Satellite operations can also be impacted by the upset magnetic field.
But we’ll happily take a few moments of wonky technology to possibly see this light up the northern sky:
No need to prepare for our demise — a solar storm is actually not so scary after all. Head outside if you live up north and look up. You may be in for a treat.