Auroras May Bloom Dec. 6-8

Solar winds from the sun could spark auroras early Sunday morning (Dec. 6) through Monday morning, This photo, taken with the orbiting Solar and Heliospheric Obseratory (SOHO) on Dec. 5 uses a disk to block the sun to better see its outer atmosphere or corona. We also see the planet Saturn - recently moved into the morning sky - not from the Antares, the brightest star in Scorpius. Credit: NASA/ESA
Solar winds could spark auroras early Sunday morning (Dec. 6) through Monday night. This photo, taken with the orbiting Solar and Heliospheric Obseratory (SOHO) on Dec. 5, uses a disk to block the sun to better see its outer atmosphere or corona. We also see the planet Saturn – recently moved into the morning sky – not from the Antares, the brightest star in Scorpius. Credit: NASA/ESA

With the moon dwindling to a crescent, conditions look great for northern lights viewing. Good thing because minor G1 storms are forecast for late tonight Dec. 5th through Sunday morning (Dec. 6) and continuing through dawn. After a daytime lull, G1 conditions recur from 9 p.m. till midnight Sunday night (Dec. 6) and Monday night, Dec. 7 during the same tune slot. We’re cloudy in northern Minnesota, but based on the 30-minute forecast model, the aurora should be visible at least low in the northern sky from the northern regions of Michigan and Minnesota right now.

30-minute forecast map showing the extent of the auroral oval with increased activity (red) causing it expand southward. Observers in northern states and southern Canada could see auroras tonight. Credit: NOAA
30-minute forecast map showing the extent of the predicted position of the auroral oval at 12:20 a.m. CST Dec. 6th. Increased activity (red) is causing the oval to expand southward. Observers in northern states and southern Canada could see auroras tonight- might even be seeing them now. Credit: NOAA

This time around, space weather experts point to holes in the sun’s magnetic canopy as the cause. Winds of plasma (charged particles such as electrons and protons) whoosh from these openings and stream toward Earth and the other planets, where they can incite auroras.

Tomorrow I’ll post information about how to watch an easily visible occultation of Venus by the crescent moon Monday morning. Stay tuned!