Chance for auroras across northern U.S. tonight Oct. 8-9

A coronal mass ejection of CME was photographed by the STEREO Behind probe, which looks at the back of the sun not visible from Earth, during early afternoon Oct. 6. The telescope uses a special instrument called a coronagraph to block the solar glare. Click for a short video of the blast. Credit: NASA

An interplanetary shock wave possibly associated with an Oct. 6 coronal mass ejection (CME) blew by Earth this afternoon and sparked auroras at high latitudes. As of 6 p.m. CDT we’re in the middle of a minor G1 geomagnetic storm. Judging from the satellite images of the auroral oval, the “apron” of northern lights that spreads outward across the polar regions, skywatchers across much of Scandinavia are getting a good show.

UPDATE: The aurora is out right now (8 p.m. CDT) here in Duluth, Minn. I’ve also heard of another report of northern lights over Maine.

Dim but active aurora drapes the northern sky to 45 degrees altitude at 7:50 p.m. this evening. Credit: Bob King

Observers in the northern U.S. and southern Canada should be on the lookout for possible auroras this evening. NOAA forecasters are calling for a 25 percent chance of minor storms at mid-latitudes. Here in northern Minnesota, we’re at 100 percent; aurora now fills half the northern sky. Nothing dramatic just yet – lots of faint rays and an occasional band or two.

A plot of the aurora oval in the northern hemisphere made with the POES satellite at 7:45 p.m. CDT shows it expanding southward over Scandinavia and Canada. When activity is low, the oval shrinks to a small circle in the far north. As more particles stream in from the sun, the oval expands southward. Credit: NOAA

Just a quick note on the photo at very top. It was taken by the STEREO Behind spacecraft and provides a perspective on the sun impossible with ground-based telescopes. STEREO-B trails far behind the Earth as it orbits the sun, keeping an eye on the solar backside. A second STEREO Ahead probe monitors the Earth-facing hemisphere for complete sun coverage.

Good luck tonight!

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About astrobob

My name is Bob King and I work at the Duluth News Tribune in Duluth, Minn. as a photographer and photo editor. I'm also an amateur astronomer and have been keen on the sky since age 11. My modest credentials include membership in the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) where I'm a regular contributor, International Meteorite Collectors Assn. and Arrowhead Astronomical Society. I also teach community education astronomy classes at our local planetarium.

11 thoughts on “Chance for auroras across northern U.S. tonight Oct. 8-9

  1. We saw huge curtains, green and mauve waves with some green spikes, here in Northern Michigan, Tip of the Mitt country;very impressive and lasted about 30 minutes.

  2. I was watching Aurora in Fort Sheridan (northen Illinois, close to the Wisconsin border) between 7:20 and 8 PM. Green arc, rather low over Lake Michigan, with some spikes shooting, for a moment, quite high into the sky. Very nice, red colors visible on photos. The lights started disappearing quickly around 8 o’clock.

    Do you think the show is over yet ?

  3. Great to connect with other lights enthusiasts!
    It was a thrill to watch the huge curtains of the Aurora borealis from the Delta jet window at 35,000 ft as I flew the red-eye from Seattle to Detroit Oct 8-9. Maximum view was about 2 a.m. over eastern Wyoming into Wisconsin. The curtains might have been 7-8 miles high and appeared mostly pale bluish. Photos didn’t work, had to memorize it.

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