A powerful G4 solar storm is hitting Earth with winds as fast as 600 mph.
It lit up brilliant auroras Sunday night, seen as far away as California, Utah and New Mexico.
The storm is also expected to cause aurora borealis on Monday night. Here’s how to see them.
A powerful geomagnetic storm is hitting the Earth causing dazzling auroras across the planet that could last well into Monday night.
Auroras were spotted over the weekend in the United States, including North Carolina, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, California and Oklahoma, according to spaceweather.com.
The show also delighted sky watchers from around the world, with the lights seen across the UK, in the skies over Kiev, Ukraine, and as far away as Victoria, Australia.
Due to the variable nature of this particular storm, it’s hard to know exactly where the auroras might be visible again tonight.
“The further north you are, the better your chances of seeing the aurora tonight,” Daniel Verscharen, an associate professor of space and climate physics at University College London, told Insider.
“Although this is a pretty strong storm, the center of auroral activity will remain north of us. That means people should be looking north and mostly close to the horizon.”
How to see and shoot auroras
The powerful storm is expected to continue through Monday evening. A G4 storm warning – the second to most severe on the geomagnetic storm scale – is in place until around 8 p.m. ET, according to the UK’s Met Office.
The storm was caused by a coronal mass ejection that released fast winds that swept through the space.
The winds are traveling at more than 600 mph, Mathew Owens, a professor of space physics at the University of Reading, told Insider.
“Some models predict this storm will last a while longer, so it’s definitely worth taking a look at the sky tonight,” Verscharen said.
If you have clear skies, head to a location with low light pollution, away from city lights.
Prepare for the cold with blankets and warm drinks. You may have used your phone or looked at screens to get where you need to go, so be patient and let your eyes adjust to the darkness.
You can try taking photos of the auroras with a camera, but make sure you don’t transfer them too quickly from a warm to a cold environment to avoid condensation, according to the Royal Photographic Society.
Preset your camera before leaving a warmer space so your fingers don’t get too cold: a higher aperture might be better, but you may need to adjust the settings if the aurora moves fast (you can find information on how set up SLR cameras here.)
Storms like this aren’t just beautiful
Powerful geomagnetic storms are becoming more common as the sun approaches solar maximum, which occurs when our star’s poles flip, wreaking havoc with magnetic fields on our star’s surface.
As the sun’s activity increases, we are also seeing more stunning solar phenomena.
Over the past couple of months, we’ve seen a swirling plasma vortex like vortex around the solar pole, a huge coronal “hole” in our sun, and a solar “tornado” the size of 14 Earths.
All of this has increased the number of auroras around the Earth, but the blasts of electromagnetic energy from these storms can affect everything from the power grid to GPS signals.
“Space weather can land on flights,” Owens previously told Insider, adding that the Federal Aviation Administration “won’t allow flights if it doesn’t have radio and satellite communications.”
Radio signals sent from Earth also have to bounce off the ionosphere to get from one point to another, which is less efficient in bad space weather.
It’s not just wind speeds that scientists are looking at. The current storm also carries a magnetic field orientation that puts us in a precarious position, according to Verscharen.
This magnetic field in this storm is pointing due south. Whenever that’s the case, the storm is more likely to disrupt Earth’s magnetic field, he said. That’s why scientists are keeping a close eye on the evolution of this storm.
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