Comet SWAN succumbs plus it’s time to WISE up

A robin dashes across a snowy yard in Lakewood Township Wednesday morning in search of open ground. Photo: Bob King

This robin dashed across the cold snow before finally reaching open ground to hunt for worms. That’s more than I can say for Comet SWAN. It made a mad dash toward the sun yesterday afternoon but never made it out the other side. Unlike December’s Comet Lovejoy, it failed to brighten in the final hours before its demise and today is little more than vapor and memory.

Take a look for yourself at this 10-hour movie compressed into 7 seconds. Notice that when the comet first appears at lower left, its head is bright and getting brighter but then quickly fades. We’re most likely seeing the SWAN’s sudden break up and vaporization as it plunges closer to the solar furnace. The coronal mass ejection (CME) seen at the end of the movie is not related to the comet but caused by yet another flare from departing sunspot group 1429, the seat of so much excitement last week.

A mosaic view of the entire sky in infrared light composed of more than 18,000 images from the WISE mission. The most obvious feature is long band of the Milky Way across the center. Click photo to see an annotated version. Credit: NASA/JPL-CalTech/WISE team

NASA just released an atlas of the entire sky taken in infrared light by the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer Mission (WISE). WISE took more than 2.7 million images of a half a billion galaxies, stars, asteroids and comets. Many of the objects – mostly stars and galaxies – have never been seen before, either because they’re intrinsically faint in visible light or hidden by dust. Dust in space absorbs regular light but is mostly transparent to infrared light. WISE took its pictures in four different “colors” or wavelengths of infrared.

A new class of faint dwarf stars and an asteroid called a “Trojan” that shares Earth’s orbit were just a couple of WISE’s discoveries. The probe also confirmed that we’ve discovered more than 90 percent of the largest, most dangerous near-Earth asteroids. In all, some 560 million objects were recorded by the mission, a data bank so rich it’s sure to lead to numerous new discoveries as scientists download and click away. If you’d like to learn  more about WISE, take a look at the mission page, and if data digging is your thing, click HERE.

The auroral oval, which indicates the extent of the northern lights, is shown for 3:30 p.m. CDT today. You can see that northern Russia, Scandinavia, Scotland and Iceland are "under" the oval and likely experiencing auroras. Click image to see the current oval. Credit: NOAA

One last update – the Kp index, which can be a good indicator of possible auroras, has shot up to “6″ this afternoon. If that holds into the evening, skywatchers in the northern states and Canada may have a shot seeing the northern lights. Stay tuned for more if a display looks imminent.

Update: 11 p.m. CDT. No aurora visible yet from Duluth, Minn.

Bright comet makes SWAN dive into sun today

Updated photo of Comet SWAN taken at 2:56 p.m. CDT this afternoon by the C3 coronagraph aboard SOHO. The white circle is the outline of the sun which is hidden by an opaque occulting disk to block glare. Credit: NASA/ESA

A very bright little comet will either sizzle into vapor or safely make it around the sun today and re-appear in the night sky. On March 8, Ukrainian amateur astronomer Vladimir Bezugly reported the comet on pictures taken by the wide-field imager called SWAN (Solar Wind ANisotropy) aboard the Solar Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). For a comet to show up in SWAN’s low-resolution, all-sky view, it has to be bright.

Comet SWAN poked its head (left) into the narrower field of view of SOHO's C2 coronagraph around 3 p.m. CDT. Credit: NASA/ESA

Late yesterday, Comet SWAN moved into pictures taken by another instrument called the LASCO C3 coronagraph on SOHO. You can clearly see the comet’s bright head and short tail.

SWAN belongs to a very special family of comets. It’s a Kreutz sungrazer, one of about 1900 pieces so far observed of a much larger comet that broke up long ago. That means it’s directly related to Comet Lovejoy, the last bright sungrazer. You might recall that most astronomers didn’t think Lovejoy would survive its superheated graze with the sun last December. Not only did it hold itself together but went on to regrow its tail and become a spectacular sight for southern hemisphere skywatchers at Christmastime.

Video of Comet SWAN March 13-14. Notice how rapidly it moves in such a short time. That’s because the comet’s very close to the sun and strongly pulled by the sun’s gravity, the same reason Mercury orbits much faster than the Earth.

Comet SWAN is not expected to rival Lovejoy, but it will still be a standout among sungrazers. Karl Battams of the Naval Research Lab in Washington DC predicts it will shine at magnitude -1 or about as bright as Mars is now. Lovejoy peaked at -4 or nearly equal to Venus. Keep in mind that the comet cannot be seen today or tomorrow, because it’s too close to the sun and lost in its glare. Only a space-based observatory with a blocking disk (coronagraph) like SOHO’s can see it.

The question is whether this new sungrazer can take the heat. We should get an answer later today or tomorrow. You can watch Comet SWAN’s progress by checking the latest C3 SOHO photos HERE and clicking on the blue LASCO C3 photo in the lower right hand corner of the page. You can also visit Karl Battam’s Sungrazing Comets blog for more information. Click HERE to see a cool movie taken by the STEREO-B observatory of the comet getting hit by a coronal mass ejection on March 12.

Two conjunctions for the price of one. Venus and Jupiter are reflected in a puddle last night. Photo: Bob King

I hope Jupiter and Venus were as awe-inspiring in your sky last night as they were in ours.  What is it about two bright lights in the heavens that exert such a powerful attraction? I was observing from a dirt road in the country. A poor-man’s observatory if there ever was. Everything else was snowed in leaving me no other choice. That was OK, because the road had a puddle and that puddle mirrored the conjunction of the planets in a beautiful way.

Before signing off, just another heads-up on the aurora. Sunspot group 1429 blasted off another large flare yesterday as a parting gesture before it rotates around the sun’s other side. Though not squarely directed at Earth, some of the solar plasma spewed is forecast to arrive at Earth later tonight through tomorrow morning March 15. Forecasters say it could start around 1:30 a.m. CDT plus or minus 7 hours. Once again, keep an eye on the Kp index and check the northern sky tonight. There’s no moon, so we’re in good shape if the northern lights take off.

Jupiter and Venus dazzle and a cosmic gift lands in Norway

Watch Jupiter and Venus at their closest tonight before they slowly part in the next two weeks. A lunar crescent joins the scene March 24 - 26. Maps created with Stellarium

Slip-slidin’ away. Always liked the title of that Paul Simon song. This week you can watch Jupiter slip slide under Venus in the west in evening twilight. For months now, Jupiter stood above Venus, but the combined movement of Venus away from the sun and Jupiter toward it have conspired them to bring them together. They’re closest tonight at just 3 degrees apart but will part company thereafter. Sweet sorrow.

Drop down from Alkaid at the end of the Big Dipper's Handle to find Arcturus, the brightest star in the constellation Bootes the Bear-Driver. It's similar in color to Mars but a magnitude fainter.

Facing the northeast two nights ago, I noticed the bright spring star Arcturus making its push into the evening sky around 9-10 p.m. Look for it well below the Handle of the Big Dipper. Together with Mars and the Dipper’s Alkaid, the three form a big triangle across the eastern sky.

Notice that the triangle includes another smaller triangle within its borders – the three stars that form the rump of Leo the Lion. Further up and to the right of Mars, the “Backwards Question Mark” figure defines the lion’s head.

Mars is due south and highest around midnight. As the night rolls on, Arcturus rise higher and higher until it’s due south at dawn. If you’re out that late, take a look to the right of the last quarter moon, and you’ll spot a third red luminary, the bright star Antares in Scorpius.

No matter when you go out you’re likely to see an occasional stray meteor. The later you’re up, the more meteors you’re likely to see. No, we’re not in the midst of a shower – the next one won’t be until late April – but the number of meteors changes overnight because of the Earth’s motion.

We trail behind Earth's orbital motion in the early evening but face into it after midnight, causing the number of random meteors to increase in the early morning hours. View from above the North Pole. Credit: NASA with my own additions

After sunset and before midnight, the hemisphere you’re standing on faces opposite Earth’s orbital motion. We’re literally on the trailing side of the planet as Earth orbits the sun. Any meteoroids headed our way have to play catch up, traveling at least 18 miles per second (Earth’s orbital speed) to reach the atmosphere and burn up as meteors.

After midnight, Earth has rotated far enough around so that our hemisphere faces “into the wind”. We’re moving forward along our orbit and straight into anything that might be in our path. No longer do meteoroids play catch up; instead we hit ‘em head on.

It’s like watching a rain or snow storm from the rear window while driving down the freeway. Not much to see when all the action’s up at the front window. On any old night, when no meteor showers are active, we see about 2 to 6 random or sporadic meteors per hour before midnight. In the wee hours, that number can rise to better than a dozen.

Screen grab of the VG TV report of the new meteorite in Oslo, Norway. Credit: VG TV

If you’re really, really lucky, one of those meteors might flare as a fireball, survive atmospheric passage and land right on your roof. That’s just what happened yesterday when a meteorite was found in Margaret Anne Thomasson’s garden in Oslo, Norway after punching a hole in the roof of her house. Half of it was still stuck in the ceiling.

The 1-lb. 4 oz. meteorite was almost certainly a fragment from a widely-witnessed fireball on March 1. Take a look at this Norwegian TV video of Earth’s newest visitor – there are some great closeups of the fresh, matte-black crust and fragmented interior along with lively discussion from astrophysicist Knut Jorgen Roed Odegaard and his wife Anne Mette Sannes. It helps to know Norwegian of course. If you don’t, here’s a short article about the fall in English. For the moment, Margaret plans to just look at the meteorite a while before deciding what to do with it.

The meteorite, which appears to be a chondrite or common type of space rock, shows a broken texture that tells us in a graphic way, that the asteroid from which it originated must have been struck by another asteroid in the distant past. Asteroid hitting asteroid creates shattered rock mixes called breccias (bretch-chas) that are cemented together by heat and pressure. Will the solar system never stop beating up on itself?

Thank you note to the Big Bang

(Heads-up: NOAA space weather forecast calls for active to major storm levels tonight through tomorrow. Auroras are possible. As of 11:30 p.m. CDT, no aurora in Duluth,Minn.)

Neil deGrasse Tyson. Credit: AP

Neil deGrasse Tyson, astrophysicist, writer and director of Hayden Planetarium in New York City, is a familiar face on late night talk shows the past several years. A master of his craft, he combines humor and enthusiasm to communicate the wonders of the universe to the general public. If you’re looking for a good book on black holes, I can recommend his “Death by Black Hole and other Cosmic Quandries”.

In a 2008 interview by TIME magazine, Neil was asked what he thought the most astounding fact about the Universe was. You can hear his response in the short video above, set to images and music by Max Schlickenmeyer. I think you’ll find the deep connection he makes very satisfying.

You can use this map to get a general idea the Kp index number and where you might see an aurora. Credit: NOAA

The two red bars on the Kp index show the storm's arrival today. Credit: NOAA

Looks like we finally got hit this morning by an incoming coronal mass ejection from one of several flares of the past couple days. It happened around 4:30 a.m. CDT; by 7 a.m. the Kp shot up to “6″. As you can see from the current plot (left), the storm’s still going strong. Wish I was in Siberia to see it.

One of our readers from Helena, Montana saw a few auroral rays while on his morning run today. Let’s hope the activity continues into the night. If there’s a possibility for northern lights, I’ll update with news later today.

Northern lights limbo plus a comet takes on a dragon

Despite a no-show for the light show, many of you noticed the striking pair of Venus and Jupiter in the western sky during twilight last night. Photo: Bob King

You’re not all going to turn your backs on the aurora just yet, are you? Some of us were disappointed that the expected storm didn’t arrive. Even today, there’s no evidence of its arrival. Either it missed us, delivered a much softer blow than anticipated or is still on its way.

Aurora forecasting resembles ordinary weather forecasting in many ways. Forecasters gather the latest information and then use computer modeling to determine a a storm’s track, arrival time and how severe it will be. We’re all familiar with the possible outcomes: meteorologists either nail it, get the idea right but err on the particulars or prove utterly wrong. We must learn to forgive, since nature always has the trump card. To learn more about the sun’s affects on Earth, including the aurora, I think you’ll enjoy this brief primer on space weather.

Auroral storms are still expected today through tomorrow, so it always pays to keep watch. I’ll post an update later today.

Earth's counterclockwise motion around the sun causes the stars and planets to rise 4 minutes earlier in the east each night. Over time, those minutes add up, until current season's constellations are "pushed" off the stage by the next. The cycle comes full circle after a year. Illustration: Bob King

The planets have been a big part of the night sky landscape the past few weeks. Venus and Jupiter dominate the western sky, ruddy Mars is high up in the southeast by mid-evening and Saturn shows up next to Spica in Virgo around 11 o’clock. That used to be 10 o’clock, but no thanks to daylight-saving time, we have to stay up an hour later now to see Saturn.

Not to fret. Earth’s revolution around the sun will conspire to raise the planet in the east 4 minutes earlier each night. In just two weeks that will shave a total of 56 minutes or nearly an hour off its rising time, and we’ll be back to where we started.

Rolando Ligustri compiled four days of photos of Comet Garradd from March 3-6 to show its motion through the sky. The dust tail sticks out to the left; the ion or plasma tail to the right. Credit: Rolando Ligustri

Last night I was excited to see how Comet Garradd’s been doing, so I grabbed my 10×50 binoculars and found it just beyond the Bowl of the Big Dipper in the tail of Draco the Dragon. Since we did our last update, the comet has moved from the morning sky to a very convenient viewing spot right up next to the Dipper. This slow-moving, rather distant but large comet has been hanging around since last summer. All the while, it’s brightness has changed little, remaining around magnitude 6.5. That’s just below the naked eye limit. Garradd was closest to Earth on March 5 at 118 million miles.

In case some of you are wondering why I’m always talking about this comet, it’s the only one in recent months bright enough to enjoy in a small telescope or see in binoculars. The rest are faint.

Last night through binoculars it was a dim, misty patch about 2/3 the size of the moon with a brighter center. Through a 15-inch telescope, Garradd has a bright, fuzzy coma with a small, intense star-like core or nucleus. Two faint, diffuse tails sprout from its head. To see these, you’ll need at least a 6 to 8-inch telescope and dark skies. Garradd will slowly fade through March and April but remain well-placed for viewing. Give it a try now that the moon’s out of the sky.

The Big Dipper, now high in the northeastern sky in the early evening hours, makes it fairly easy to find Comet Garradd. This map shows its position every 3 days through late March. Look for a faint, fuzzy patch in binoculars. The labeled stars, Kappa and Lambda Draconis, are naked eye stars. Other stars shown to about mag. 7. Created with Chris Marriott's SkyMap

Aurora preparations plus the oddities of daylight-saving time

Brett Grandson of Duluth took this gorgeous scene of the northern lights along Lake Superior north of Duluth this past Friday morning. Details: f6.3, 30 sec, ISO 200 with an 8mm lens. Credit: Brett Grandson

(Updated at 12:15 a.m. CST March 11: Kp index still stuck at 2. No aurora visible in Duluth, Minn. yet. The moon looks cool with its “companions” Saturn and Spica. Look for bright, red-colored Mars high up due south, the bright red star Arcturus in the east and twinkling Vega in the northeast.)

Are you ready for tonight? According to the NOAA space weather forecast, we’re still expecting a good solar storm to roll through late tonight with the potential for auroras.  Arrival time is expected around 1 a.m. CST plus or minus 7  hours. Watch for the lights anytime from dusk through tomorrow morning by checking the northern sky periodically for any activity. If you see moving rays and bright greenish arcs of light, bundle up and plan to spend a little time under the cosmos. The same sunspot group responsible for tonight’s expected storm unleashed yet another large flare (M8-class) today around 11:30 CST. Expect that coronal mass ejection from that one to arrive at Earth midday Monday March 12.

The northern U.S., Canada and northern Europe are the best locations to see auroras, but if the storm is active enough, the auroral oval will expand southward toward the central states like Illinois, Kentucky and Colorado. Very strong shocks to Earth’s magnetosphere can even bring the dancing lights as far south as Arizona. I’ll stay in touch via the blog this evening, but don’t be surprised if I’m missing-in-action for a while; it just means I’m out under the stars. Clear skies are forecast for northern Minnesota tonight.

Aurora over Boulder Lake north of Duluth, Minn. Friday morning photographed by Gage Salyards. Details: 11mm lens at f/8, ISO800 and 10" exp. Click image to see more of Gage's work. Credit: Gage Salyards

I know I’m repeating myself, but the best guides to whether the northern lights are likely to light up your life are the Kp index and the extent of the auroral oval. If the index equals 4, there’s a good chance of seeing an aurora in the northern U.S. and Canada. If it goes up to 6, auroras will likely be visible farther south into Wisconsin, Illinois, New York and the Dakotas.

The moon, Saturn and Spica will form a very nifty equilateral triangle this evening in the southeastern sky. Maps created with Stellarium

The waning gibbous moon rises around 9:30-10 p.m. tonight, so it won’t dilute those pale auroral rays to the degree it did Thursday night. Still, there’s no need to turn your back on our shiny satellite. It forms a charming little triangle with the planet Saturn and Spica in Virgo this evening. Take a few minutes to look at Saturn, 825 million miles away, through a small telescope. Those rings are the equal of any auroral display in my opinion. Spica is a very close pair of extremely luminous blue-white stars with a combined light 1900 times brighter than the sun.

A sign taped to a window I came across while on assignment yesterday. Photo: Bob King

Don’t forget that tonight-tomorrow morning we switch over to daylight-saving time (DST) in the U.S. Instead of the sky turning dark around 7-7:30 p.m. as it will tonight, it will happen at 8-8:30 p.m. on Sunday. Lots of people look forward to this “extra” daylight in the evening hours. Conversely, we lose an hour of daylight in the morning and find ourselves waking up in a slightly darker world Sunday morning.

Orion and Sirius tonight at 8 o'clock (left pane) and tomorrow night at the same time. Advancing the time an hour with DST makes the constellations appear to move backward (to the left or east) one hour.

The hour shift also causes a shift in the stars. With DST in effect, the positions of the stars at 8 p.m. tonight will be the equivalent of their positions tomorrow night at 9 p.m. Think about a second and it makes sense. 9 p.m tomorrow is really the same time as 8 p.m. tonight, when we ignore the artifice of daylight saving time.

Another way to see it is shown in the illustration above. At 8 o’clock tonight, Sirius will be west of due south and Orion off to the right and out of the slice of sky I selected. Tomorrow at the same time, Sirius will not have reached its due south point at 8 p.m. on your clock. Instead it’s still off to the east, but Orion is now back in the picture.

That extra hour of daylight time has the effect of retarding the movement of the constellations by one hour. So you’ll have to stay up an hour later to see the spring stars in the east. This might make some of you sad, but if for those who still cling to the winter stars, DST is good news.

Here we go again – another solar storm, more auroras through the weekend

A M-class solar flare, shown in this photo taken in ultraviolet light by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, is likely to cause a strong G3 storm late tomorrow night into Sunday. Credit: NASA

Am I doomed to write about nothing but flares and auroras? Yesterday night around 11 p.m. CST, a fresh flare exploded within sunspot group 1429. This one was an M-class, a level below the X-class flares of recent days, but still powerful and headed nearly straight for Earth.

Just when you thought things were going to calm down, they’re not. Our nonstop run of lights that began in earnest yesterday look to continue through the weekend. The coronal mass ejection lofted by the new flare is expected to hit around 1 a.m. Sunday morning March 11. Expect a strong G3 storm and another round of northern lights.

There’s more good news. By Sunday, the moon will be in waning gibbous phase and lower in the sky. That means darker skies and easier to see northern lights. How long can we keep this going? I hope long enough that everyone whose heart’s desire has been to see an aurora is satisfied. I’ll update routinely through the weekend on the progress of the storm. By the way, if you’d like quicker updates, you can find me on Twitter at AstroBob_bk

Solar storm still rattling; more auroras predicted tonight

You can thank the huge, naked eye sunspot group 1429 for producing the flare that led to last night's spectacular auroras. Credit: NASA/SDO

The aurora didn’t kick in till late, but once it did, it was impossible to tear yourself away. I called it quits at 2 a.m. with one last look out the door at the dancing rays. Some of you were up well past that, and from what I hear, the show never stopped. The Kp index hit “7″ in the wee hours and stayed there until well after sunrise for the Midwest.

Even as of 9 a.m. CST this morning (far right red bar) the Kp index, an indicator of magnetic activity in the Earth's upper atmosphere, was still in the red zone at "6". Credit: NOAA

Sunspot group 1429 and its companion in crime, 1430, still have more in store for us I’m happy to say. NOAA space weather forecasts call for minor to major auroras coming yet tonight as a result of the big flares earlier this week. The moon rises later and won’t be quite as bright, making for better viewing. Despite moonlight last night, the northern lights were the wildest, most active display I’ve seen in several years. No harm came to any power grids or satellites – it was all good, clean fun.

The moon comes up near Saturn and Spica in Virgo tonight. Jupiter (top) and Venus highlight the western sky. Map created with Stellarium. Photo: Bob King

For those who didn’t see the aurora last night, Venus and Jupiter together in the west were a great sight just by themselves. Watch for them to be even closer together tonight. And when the moon comes up in the southeast, it’ll be only a stone’s throw from Spica and the planet Saturn. There’s so much to see.

Will the aurora repeat tonight? A picture from early this morning in Lakewood Township north of Duluth. Click the photo to see a wonderful video of the display made by my Duluth News Tribune colleague Andrew Krueger. It really captures the feeling of motion. Photo: Bob King

Aurora blazes overnight over Duluth, Minn.

Lots of pale green, dancing rays filled the northern sky north of Duluth shortly after midnight this morning March 9. Details: 20mm lens at f/2.8, ISO 800 and 7 second exposure. Photo: Bob King

Around 9:20 p.m. CST Thursday evening, we finally got to see a few pulsing patches of aurora in the lower half of the northern sky. Moonlight was bright, but the aurora held its own. Storm activity jumped to “5″ on the Kp index at the time, but only a half hour later, the display faded back to a series of extensive but wispy rays across the north. They showed better in the camera than to the eye.

I looked out my front door about 9;20 p.m. Thursday and caught the start of the display. Although a little dim at the time, it was easily to watch the patches change shape and brightness. Photo: Bob King

A spectacular coronal aurora crowned the top of the sky around 1 a.m. this morning March 9 during a peak in the display. The coronal form develops during large geomagnetic storms. Photo: Bob King

A second view of the corona. It was faint but still a spectacle near the bright moon at the bottom of the frame. Photo: Bob King

Activity slowed for a time but around 11:30 p.m. the Kp took a big leap into the red zone. That’s whem show really got going. From 11:30 p.m. through at least 1:30 Friday morning, the northern lights sizzled here in Duluth. The whole northern sky plus a fair chunk to the east were alive with rays at midnight. Even better, and what doesn’t show in the still photos, were the wonderful, repeating waves of auroral light that rippled across the northern sky like expanding waves of water when a pebble is dropped in a pond. Beautiful! Absolutely alive with movement. The display was much brighter and easier to see than at 10 p.m. but still somewhat washed out by moonlight.

This frame grab from the OVATION Auroral Forecast shows the visibility of the northern lights as of 2:20 a.m. CST (8:20 UT) this morning March 9. Credit: NOAA

Take a look at the OVATION forecast (above) that showed the extent of the auroral oval at 2:20 a.m. CST. If the green band was over your house, aurora was all over your sky. The red line indicates how far away viewers on the ground could see the aurora. Because the northern lights dance at least 60 miles high in the ionosphere (far above most clouds), aurora is visible as far away as 600 mph from the oval’s edge. The closer to the red line you’re located, the lower the aurora will appear in your northern sky.

Times shown are Universal or Greenwich time. To convert to EST, subtract 5 hours, CST 6 hours and so on. My thanks to Mooni for sharing the link.

I’m tempted to stay up all night, but even amateur astronomers need their sleep. I better get some; the space weather forecast calls for a good chance for auroras again tonight. Thank you all for sharing your observations!

Solar storm hits – expected to continue through tonight

The left image shows the CME on the Tuesday evening photographed by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory. A disk blocks the blinding sun (white circle). The right image,taken early this morning, is nearly saturated with artifacts from thousands of high-energy storm particles hitting the detector. Credit: NASA/ESA

Like many of you, I stayed up as late as I could hoping to see aurora and then finally went to bed. The coronal mass ejection (CME) – that high-speed soup of electrons and protons shot from the sun by Wednesday’s X5.4 flare – arrived around 6 a.m. this morning. The resulting impact was not as strong as expected, but observers farther west in Alaska saw some nice auroras. The timing was a little too close to sunrise to see anything here in the Midwest.

The aurora was great last night from Abisko National Park, Sweden according to photographer Chad Blakley. He said that even the full moon didn't spoil their brilliance. Click image to see more. Credit: Chad Blakley

The forecast calls for more northern lights through tonight as Earth’s protective magnetic bubble called the magnetosphere continues to reverberate from the impact. I’m happy to report that at least for Duluth, Minn., the terrestrial forecast calls for partly cloudy skies. I’ll be checking the sky regularly and report back what I see. As of 11 a.m. CST today, based on the Kp index and extent of the auroral oval, which defines the donut-shaped region of northern light visibility, sky watchers in Siberia and Lapland are probably getting a great show right now.

I encourage you to go out for look yourself tonight and share what you see in the Comments section below. Good luck!