Aurora alert for high latitudes
SpaceWeather.com is saying this morning (September 1, 2021) that two enormous bubbles of superheated gas from our sun – otherwise known as coronal mass ejections or CMEs – are headed toward Earth. There’s no danger to us on Earth. And these CMEs aren’t strong enough to knock out satellites or power grids. But they are about to give a “jolt” to our planet’s magnetic field, causing a beautiful display of auroras at high latitudes. SpaceWeather said:
Estimated time of arrival: September 1-2. NOAA forecasters expect geomagnetic storms as strong as category G2. That means people as far south as Idaho and New York (geomagnetic latitude 55 degrees) could see auroras.
As early as late last week, sun-watchers began to notice that solar activity was picking up, as solar active region 12860 (AR 2860) produced 8 C-class solar flares. Then on Saturday, August 28, at 5:30 UTC (1:30 a.m. EDT) the region produced a larger M4.7 solar flare. The flare was easily visible in the 131 angstrom wavelength band from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. It showed solar plasma temperatures over 10 million degrees. The event created a minor radio blackout on the sun-facing side of Earth (see the illustration below). The event created a coronal mass ejection (CME) directed toward Earth. That single CME, however, wasn’t expected to cause a large effect on the region around Earth.
Now 2 CMEs headed our way
But, later that day, as SpaceWeather explained, a massive filament of magnetism erupted on the sun. And this huge arc of electrified gas in the sun’s atmosphere produced a second Earth-directed CME. Now, the two CMEs are moving across space in tandem toward Earth. SpaceWeather said:
NOAA forecasters expect the CMEs to deliver a double blow separated by hours. The first CME could spark a minor G1-class geomagnetic storm late on September 1. The second CME could intensify the storm, boosting it to a moderately strong G2-class event on September 2.
Storms like these do no damage to power grids or satellites. They can, however, produce beautiful auroras at high latitudes. A light show is possible in Scandinavia, Iceland, Canada, and even some northern-tier U.S. states.
Images from the August 28 event
Aurora alert. Here’s AR 2860 on August 30
Bottom line: Aurora alert. Two CMEs from AR 12860 are crossing space toward Earth and are expected to create a beautiful display of auroras at high latitudes.