Space Weather Watch: Keep an Eye Out for Aurora

Nothing to worry about—except for a cool light show if you live up North.
December 8, 2016, 12:30pm
NASA/Wikimedia Commons

Heads up, we're under a space weather watch. Potential minor geomagnetic storm activity, as reported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, started kicking up on the sun earlier on December 7. We Earthlings are cozied up to level G1 on the space weather scale through December 9.

Before you make a run on bread and toilet paper as the solar storm settles in, it's important to note that unless you're a skywatcher in a northern state, you probably won't notice anything is different. A G1 watch—G for geomagnetic storm, or a disturbance of Earth's magnetosphere from solar winds, 1 for the mildest forecast—might stir up fluctuations in weak power grids, a slight disturbance in spacecraft operations, and uncommonly vivid auroras in higher altitudes like Maine and Michigan.

The most dramatic storms, G5, can and have caused full scale blackouts—but we're not expecting anything like that this time. They can also widespread voltage control issues, grid, grid collapse, and blown transformers, as well as auroras visible as far south as Florida and Texas, but they are rare: a probability of only four days in every 11 year cycle.

Solar winds and space weather are monitored by NOAA's DSCOVR and GOES satellites, which together help warn scientists of potentially dangerous storms or eruptions. Thank them for the heads-up of this light storm and all others, and the potential for those in the northern US (Maine and Michigan) to see some cool aurora action.

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