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Northern Lights Display Possible Across Parts of the Northern United States This Weekend

Limitless Media
Photo byLimitless Media/Charlie Bourdo

The northern lights might make another appearance across the northern portions of the United States over the next three days! This light show potential is thanks to three Coronal Mass Ejections, also known as CMEs, that were released from the Sun over the past two days. A smaller light show may occur Saturday evening, and a larger aurora event could be in store for Sunday!

The first CME was released on Halloween evening. This CME occurred on the earth-facing side of the sun, so it may contain a component that is directed towards our Earth; however, the bulk of the CME appears to be directed south of Earth. This can be seen on the LASCO coronagraph with the mass of solar material on the bottom side of the image.

The second CME was much weaker and was launched on the morning of November 2nd. An M1.67 class solar flare triggered this CME. While this isn’t an extremely powerful solar flare, it did have enough strength to trigger a weak CME. You can see the flare on the bottom right side of the sun where the bright flash is occurring.

The Space Weather Prediction Center’s WSA-Enlil model forecasts these two ejections will arrive on the evening of November 4th. These two CMEs may merge into one in an event known as a cannibal CME. If this happens, a stronger geomagnetic storm is possible, resulting in a brighter aurora event. However, the bigger light show looks to be arriving late this weekend.

In the early morning hours of November 3rd, a large filament was launched off of the sun’s surface, and it looked to be squarely earth-directed. The LASCO coronagraph confirmed this Earth-directed CME. The full halo shape following the launch of this large CME is a key indicator of an Earth direct ejection.

The WSA-Enlil model shows a nearly dead-center impact from this CME, and the previous CMEs that will be occurring ahead of it may help clear a path so this big blast faces less resistance on its track to Earth. The latest forecasts have this CME impacting Earth sometime on Sunday afternoon.

Photo bySpace Weather Prediction Center

If you’d like to know what real-time information is available to predict these events on your own, Charlie Bourdo has put together a great YouTube video about how he predicts the auroras. This video covers the essential information from forecasting three days in advance to the moments leading up to the light show. You can find that video below!

Written by: Charlie Bourdo

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