Just days after a wave of geomagnetic activity sparked amazing displays of northern lights as far south as Iowa, another space storm is on its way from the sun - and could hit us as early as Tuesday.
The wave of electrically charged particles, also known as a coronal mass ejection, was sent out over the weekend. At the time, astronomers thought the ejection would miss Earth completely, but imagery from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory now suggests that part of the storm was blown out in our direction.
Like the last storm, this blast doesn't look as if it's strong enough to create significant problems for electricity grids, satellites or navigation devices. But SpaceWeather.com says "high-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras when the cloud arrives, probably on August 10."
If the storm does spark auroras, that would provide just one more reason for folks in northern latitudes to look up at the night sky after midnight. The Perseid meteor shower is nearing its expected peak on Thursday, and the reports so far suggest that the light show will at least live up to expectations. There's also a nice planetary triangle (Mars, Venus and Saturn) hanging in western skies after sunset.
Here's a recap of resources for aurora watchers:
- Day-by-day aurora forecasts from GEDDS at University of Alaska
- Space Weather Prediction Center's aurora-viewing tips
- Map of current auroral activity from prediction center
- Soft Serve News: Aurora borealis activity forecast
- SpaceWeather.com coverage of auroral activity
It's not a sure bet that anyone in the United States will see the aurora this time around, but it is a sure bet that if pictures of the northern lights are taken - say, in Scandinavia or Canada - some of them will show up in SpaceWeather.com's aurora gallery. Stay tuned for updates on the space storm as well as the meteor shower later this week.