Debris from the X5 class solar flare has reached the earth’s magnetosphere.
The NASA image above was taken by the SOHO solar observation satellite. It shows the early stages of the coronal mass ejection shortly after the flare erupted from the sun’s surface. Materials blown away from the sun moved toward the earth at 1 million mph or higher, reaching the vicinity of earth Thursday morning.
The pressure from the materials carried on the solar wind distorts the magnetic field surrounding the earth. Electrical charges result and light the nighttime sky with spectacular auroral displays.
The map above was produced by the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. It is a forecast of where the aurora might be visible Thursday night and early Friday. The green shading identifies the area where auroras would be visible overhead. The solid green line to the south defines the southern limit of aurora visiblility low on the northern horizon. The forecast on this map estimates that auroras might be visible as far south as Boston, Chicago and Seattle. The line passes across northern Pennsylvania indicating that Baltimore might be a little too far south for viewing an auroral display. Additionally, the weather will not be ideal. Clouds and rain are in the forecast for the overnight hours.
There may be other opportunities to view auroral displays over the next few years as the sun is still headed toward the maximum of its’ eleven year cycle of solar activity.