Monday, September 3, 2012

Aurora Borealis To Extend into Midwest Tonight

The Planetary K index, or K index, has reached a 6 at the latest reading, indicating the expected geomagnetic storm has struck Earth. Impacts are expected to hit high frequency radios in the upper latitudes as well as satellite orbit issues and some fluctuations in the power grid.

However, the big story is about how far south the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, will extend. Let's take a look at thresholds for certain K index numbers.

The aurora typically is seen in Chicago and New York City in the 7 mark of the K index. However, because this is not a guaranteed threshold, and the last geomagnetic storm at the same strength as the current one brought an aurora to Kansas, I do not doubt these cities seeing the Northern Lights tonight (away from light pollution and cloud cover).

So...who will see the lights, weather permitting?

Courtesy Intellicast
The Sky Watch forecast from Intellicast labels the blue areas as 'best' conditions for seeing the stars, and gray areas for the 'worst' conditions to find the Milky Way. Looking at this map, it looks like the Western US is in for a treat tonight, given mainly clear skies across the board. However, cities to the east, such as Chicago, Boston, Washington DC, and possibly Atlanta may not get in on this spectacle, thanks to Mother Nature getting in the way. However, Dallas and Miami still have a shot this evening.


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