Aurora alert for northern U.S. tonight Feb. 27-28

Click image to watch video of the X4.9 flare on Feb. 25 in multiple wavelengths of light / Solar Dynamics Observatory

Lots of movement in the northern lights over Hamburg, Germany this evening Feb. 27-28, 2014. Submitted by Daniel Fischer

A spectacular solar X4.9 solar flare from returning sunspot group AR 1967 on Feb. 25 wasn’t supposed to have much affect on Earth. Surprise! Even though the plasma blast shot off to one side of the sun’s disk, our planet’s magnetic bubble received a glancing blow from the explosion this afternoon. Talk about explosion – swarms of electrons and protons left the sun at an estimated 4.4 million mph!

Still image of the X4.9 flare on Feb. 25. Notice that it’s aimed well off to the left. If it had occurred near the center of the disk, its effects on Earth would be more severe. This flare is the strongest yet this year and one of the strongest in the current sunspot cycle. Credit: NASA

As of 5 p.m. CST, a moderate G2 geomagnetic storm is in progress with strong auroras flaring up over across Europe as far south as southern Germany. Should the activity continue, skywatchers in the northern U.S. and possibly farther south will have a good chance at seeing the northern lights tonight. With no moon present, conditions will be ideal for aurora watching. Start looking as soon as possible after twilight ends this evening.

Click HERE to see the extent of the auroral oval, which will help you determine if northern lights might be visible from your location. I’ll update as needed. Good luck!

A quiet affair. The aurora from north of Duluth, Minn. U.S. Thursday night Feb. 27, 2014. Temperature -30 F. Credit: Bob King

UPDATE 9 p.m. CST: Aurora out here in Duluth as a so-far quiet bright arc low in the northern sky.

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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.

16 thoughts on “Aurora alert for northern U.S. tonight Feb. 27-28

  1. I just saw the coolest thing I have ever saw. I was driving home and saw a bright light that caught my eye it was blue looking at one end and had a long white tail or streak behind it. It went over a hill so I couldn’t tell how long it lasted. I am going to go tomorrow and see if I can see any evidence. I have never been interested in this stuff but I am now. I live in Nickelsville Va. Can someone email me and let me know what it may have been.

  2. bob, do you think it’ll peak in our part? i know a friend on cornucopia, wi saw faint lights earlier, but nothing on the ashland, washburn side.

  3. Done at 10 for work. I will be glancing to the north tonight. Maybe stop for a minute, shut the lights off as I am driving east.Hopefully I will see the northern lights I remember.

    • Carol,
      The auroral oval becomes broader and expands southward as hordes of charged particles – mostly electrons – travel down the planet’s magnetic field lines during a geomagnetic storm.

  4. Hello, Bob- my husband and I really enjoy your articles. Thank you! We live near Esko, but recently purchased a resort in Northern Minnesota named Northern Lights Resort & Outfitting on Lake Kabetogama.

    I noticed that you have a small window for advertisers on your site. I would be interested in exploring advertising with you as a small way to say, “Thanks again!” Please let me know your advertising terms.

    Thank you,
    Tracy Lindstrom
    Northern Lights Resort & Outfitting
    http://www.NLRO.com
    651-271-1718

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