Rare Severe Geomagnetic Storm Watch Issued For First Time In Nearly 20 Years

You may soon get a view of a rare spectacle.

A look at areas where Northern Lights will be visible on Friday night, May 10.

A look at areas where Northern Lights will be visible on Friday night, May 10.

Photo Credit:
Northern lights

Northern lights

Photo Credit: NOAA NWS Space Weather Prediction Center

According to the NOAA National Weather Service's Space Weather Prediction Center, a series of solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs) began on Wednesday, May 8. CMEs are explosions of plasma and magnetic fields from the sun’s corona.

Space weather forecasters have issued a Severe (G4) Geomagnetic Storm Watch for the evening of Friday, May 10.

It's the first time a G4 Watch has been issued since January 2005.

The watch says CMEs may linger into Sunday, May 12.

Geomagnetic storms can also trigger spectacular displays of aurora (known as the northern lights) on Earth. 

Depending on cloud cover, the northern lights could be visible Friday night into early Saturday morning, May 11, in much of the northern US, throughout Canada, and even as far south as Virginia, according to (See the first image above.)

"Additional solar eruptions could cause geomagnetic storm conditions to persist through the weekend,"  Space Weather Prediction Center.

According to NASA, "the aurora is a beautiful nighttime phenomenon," and it's the only way for most people to experience space weather.

The SWPC noted that geomagnetic storms can impact infrastructure in near-Earth orbit and on Earth’s surface, potentially disrupting communications, the electric power grid, navigation, radio, and satellite operations. 

"SWPC has notified the operators of these systems so they can take protective action," the center said. 

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