A potentially bright aurora is in the forecast this evening (Oct. 13). The sun shot a CME or coronal mass ejection almost directly toward the Earth in the early morning hours of Oct. 9. After a journey of 93 million miles, the busy cloud of electrons and protons is expected to arrive this afternoon and rile our planet’s magnetic field. The peak of activity happens at just the right time for skywatchers across the central and eastern U.S. and Canada. Between about 7 and 10 p.m. Central Daylight Time, we’re expecting a G2 or moderate geomagnetic storm. That could bring the northern lights into view as far south as New York and Idaho.
But will we see them? Given a dark sky, chances are good, but tonight the moon is waxing gibbous just three days before full. It could brighten the sky enough to wash out a modest display of the aurora. We’ll just have to go out and see. Tonight’s forecast for my city is clear, so I’ll keep tabs and send out a tweet if we get a nice show.
* UPDATE 10:15 p.m.: A strong geomagnetic storm (Kp=7) got underway late this afternoon and early evening with widespread auroras visible from the northern states and Canada. As of 10 p.m. CDT, the index has dropped some, but if the sky is clear and you live in the northern U.S. and southern Canada, there’s a good chance the aurora’s still in view. It definitely bested the moonlight!