The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a warning on space weather conditions due to a solar flare last Sunday, Feb. 11. This solar flare sent a coronal mass ejection (CME) expected to reach Earth today, Feb. 16.
CMEs are large explosions of magnetic field and plasma from the sun's corona, which can cause geomagnetic storms and brighter aurora in the night sky.
Coronal Mass Ejection
The sun unleashed the solar flare around 8:25 p.m. ET on Sunday. Solar flares produce intense high energy radiation from the sun's surface.
NOAA predicts that high latitudes will have a 55 percent chance of geomagnetic storms as the CME hurls towards the planet. This is due to the sun sending out a long duration C class solar flare that produced the CME approaching Earth.
NOAA's G1 warning is related to the geomagnetic storms that Earth may be experiencing as the CME bombards Earth.
#Solarstorm & #Aurora 5-day Outlook: Waiting for impact of #ValentinesDay storm followed by fast #solar wind. Lucky for romance under #aurora filled skies down to mid-latitudes! In each table, the top row shows what conditions are expected, bottom shows possible maximum activity. pic.twitter.com/w8B2d8KoA1 — Dr. Tamitha Skov (@TamithaSkov) February 14, 2018
G1 storms can affect migratory animals, cause weak power grid fluctuations, and affect satellites. The storm can cause aurora to be visible. This happens closer to the poles.
The storm could strengthen to a G2 storm depending on how the particles hit Earth.
Why are we under a G1 Watch the next two days? Because of this solar storm seen here in this GIF. The Sun unleashed a long duration C class flare that also produced a coronal mass ejection (CME) towards Earth. Send all of your Aurora reports to @TweetAurora #CitizenScience pic.twitter.com/VCO1Z6857g — Michael Cook (@SpaceWxMike) February 14, 2018
When the particles unleashed by the solar flare reach Earth, most will be blocked by the planet's magnetic field. Those that manage to reach the atmosphere will connect in the north and south poles. There they will interact with atmospheric gases that will produce the famous aurora borealis (northern lights) and aurora australis (southern lights.)
These lights can be visible at high latitude, at above 60 degrees magnetic latitude. This is different than the geographic latitude because they don't match up together. The position of the magnetic north pole makes it easier for the United States to watch the northern lights.