A blast of particles from the sun has set a geomagnetic storm watch in place for this Wednesday night into Thursday, as announced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
NOAA has issued a “strong” advisory for the storm. It’s caused by what’s known as a coronal mass ejection, in which the sun emits a cloud of plasma at speeds of hundreds or thousands of kilometers per second. This particular storm is the result of an ejection that took place on Monday, September 4.
While humans need not worry about this type of event directly affecting their health thanks to Earth’s electromagnetic field, geomagnetic storms do have the potential to affect power grids and satellites. Fortunately, Robert Rutledge of the U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado told Bloomberg that it’s unlikely these kinds of issues will occur, calling it a “run-of-the-mill storm.” This definitely won’t be the kind of end-all massive solar storm of the century that could wreak unprecedented havoc on the electrical grid.
What you can expect is a visible aurora — beautiful colorful lights that swirl through the sky — in some parts of the northern continental U.S.
According to most recent reports from NOAA, the aurora has the potential to be seen in parts of Washington, Wyoming, Iowa, Illinois, and New York, though a full moon could diminish some of its visual effects. Cloud cover can also dampen out the visible lights. To see if aurora will be visible from where you are, keep track using NOAA’s forecast, which automatically updates every 30 minutes.