Harrisonburg, Virginia (WHSV) –
Update: The expected timing has now changed to the Thursday just after sunset. Predicting space weather is very different from forecasting weather at the surface. There may still be some changes with the arrival of this solar storm.
You may want to save a little time to research for the next few nights. There is a possibility that auroras are seen as far south as Pennsylvania, and in extreme cases, possibly even across the mid-Atlantic.
According to the Space Weather Agency of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), coronal mass ejection (CME) is heading towards Earth’s atmosphere sometime Wednesday or Thursday. CMEs are large expulsions of plasma and magnetic field from the sun’s corona. Once these objects collide with Earth’s atmosphere, they spread out and can often create the Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis.
Although this is a strong solar storm, for the northern lights to be visible in the far south, they need to be a little stronger.
What will it take
- You will need energy to hit the atmosphere at night. If it happens during the day, we don’t see it.
- The power has to be so strong to make the lights visible in the far south to be spotted here.
- You should be in a very dark place away from the city lights.
- Make sure to get a great view of the northern horizon.
Usually, photographing them produces better results than the naked eye, since you can use long exposure.
Jason Rinehart, a local astronomer, captured the Northern Lights with a camera in June 2015 from along the Blue Ridge Parkway toward the town of Buchanan. In 2015 this was a C4 geomagnetic storm. Current is C3.
Seeing them locally might be a rare event, but it has happened before. Don’t set your expectations too high, but again, it’s fun to go out to do some stargazing while you’re at it.
When are you looking
The best time to search would be Thursday after sunset. However, we will have a better idea of timing as the energy approaches Earth.
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