Solar Hole May Blow In Aurora Tonight Jan. 23-24

The aurora photographed from the International Space Station. NASA / ESA

Let’s just keep the fun going, shall we? First the eclipse, then the Venus-Jupiter conjunction topped by a display of the northern lights. A recent coronal hole on the sun could fire up a G1 minor storm this evening starting at nightfall and continuing through about 1 a.m. (Central time). Holes are regions in the sun’s corona where the magnetic field opens into space. Instead of constrained to the sun, the field lines reach outward like those snakes uncoiling from Medusa’s head and send high-speed streams of electrons and protons toward the Earth. If they arrive pointed in the right direction, they connect with our planet’s magnetic field and find their way into the atmosphere to initiate the aurora.

This coronal hole, photographed here on Jan. 21 with NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, has been huffing and puffing a subatomic solar soup in Earth’s direction. The sun looks strange because the photo was taken in far ultraviolet light. Regular light photos can’t show coronal holes and other magnetic features in the sun’s atmosphere. NASA/SDO

Let’s hope the forecast makes good. G1 storms usually are only visible from the northern regions of the northern border states, Canada and northern Europe and Russia. But I’ve seen minor storms become moderate ones with visibility extending further south into the central U.S. The best thing is just to go out and look tonight. If the aurora is active, you’ll see an arc-shaped glow — maybe with a hint of green coloration — low in the northern sky. Auroras typically show better around midnight, so if you don’t see anything at 7 or 8, try again before you go to bed. Be sure to allow your eyes at least 5 minutes to adapt to the darkness before calling off your search. You can also check the Aurora – 30 minute forecast to see the extent of the auroral oval. If its edge is over your location or close by, you have an excellent chance of seeing the aurora.

7 Responses

  1. Edward M Boll

    I looked before clouds came in. I did not see northern lights. Just curious. Have you looked at Comet Stephan Oterma lately? It is overhead during the night and reported still brighter than magnitude 11.

    1. astrobob

      Edward,
      It looks like the lights may arrive today sometime — behind schedule. I last observed 38P about two weeks ago but not lately. I did get a nice look a week ago at Y1 Iwamoto. I think it will be a nice one soon!

  2. Edward M. Boll

    Yes, I have not looked for Y1 yet. I was going to look for Wirtanen last night, but st 17 below and breezy just decided to scan stars with binoculars for about 3 minutes.

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