If skies are clear this weekend, parts of Canada could be treated to a spectacular show thanks to an incredible space phenomenon.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a G1 geomagnetic storm has been forecast for the nights of March 14 and March 15, due to solar winds.
Because of this, a minor disturbance will affect Earth’s geomagnetic field, as a slightly faster part of the solar wind stream sweeps past Earth over the next two days.
This could have an impact on satellite communications, power grid controllers, and we may see some auroras as well.
However, according to The Weather Network, “Earth will encounter what’s known as a Coronal Hole High Speed Stream (CH HSS), and the Co-rotating Interaction Region (CIR) that precedes it.”
A result of this, if conditions are clear on the nights of Saturday, March 17 and Sunday, March 18, the Aurora Borealis, aka The Northern Lights could be visible.
“It’s the transition through the CIR and the entry into the high speed stream, that is expected to cause the disturbance to Earth’s magnetic field, which will then touch off the aurora display.”
The March equinox, which occurs on Tuesday, March 20, will also add to the potential of the auroras, as this is typically a time associated with more intense geomagnetic activity.
Coinciding with a New Moon on the 17th, there should be excellent viewing conditions for aurora chasers and enthusiasts.
This map shows the potential aurora visibility for varying geomagnetic storm strengths. The higher the Planetary K-index is, the stronger the storm.
You can monitor the K-Index levels and updates on the auroras on the Space Weather Prediction Centre’s website. But do keep in mind that the “K-Index is an average of the geomagnetic intensity seen over the past three hours.”
To catch the lights in full display, try to head away from city centres, light pollution, and competing light sources in the sky.
And, of course, don’t forget your cameras and remember to be patient.