NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory spacecraft captured this image of a giant hole (the dark spot at the top) in the sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona, on Sept. 11, 2018.
The northern lights just got a boost thanks to a large hole in the solar atmosphere, and there would be something of a repeat show tonight.
A moderate geomagnetic storm created flickering auroras visible to skywatchers as far south as Minnesota and Wisconsin early this morning (Sept. 11), according to Spaceweather.com.
The storm was caused by a particularly powerful and rapid burst of solar wind — the stream of charged particles flows continuously from the sun that escaped through a gaping hole in the sun’s outer atmosphere, known as the corona.
The northern and southern lights result when such particles slam into molecules high in the Earth’s atmosphere, generating a glow. The earth’s magnetic field channels these particles in the direction of the planet’s poles, which explains why the auroras are usually confined to high latitudes. But special circumstances — such as coronal holes and huge explosions of solar plasma called coronal mass ejections — can extend the intensity and range of these dazzling light displays.
The geomagnetic storm responsible for this morning’s ramp-up is now subsiding, Spaceweather.com reported. But there is still a 70 percent chance of minor storming through tomorrow (Sept. 12), according to forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center.
So watch tonight if you live in the upper Midwest, New England, the Pacific Northwest, or somewhere else along the same latitude lines — you may just get lucky!
Originally published on Space.com.