Those monitoring the sun say one of the most powerful solar flares ever recorded erupted Tuesday morning and its effects headed directly toward Earth, arriving early Wednesday morning.
Now, that won't mean too much for those of us living on the planet. Earth's electromagnetic field protects us from the effects of solar flares. But it could mean another round of communication disruptions and was responsible for a brilliant display of the Northern Lights Tuesday night.
The geomagnetic storm continued to rage Wednesday, and if the storm keeps up as promised through tonight, another show of the Northern Lights would be a near slam dunk.
The Lights came out around midnight Wednesday morning and were visible as far south as California and Texas. Liem Bahneman of Bothell captured the photo above from a parking lot in Kirkland early Wednesday morning. You can see more photos of Liem's here. Art Tate of Olympia sent in the one below. We also got reports from Tacoma.
If you captured any photos, e-mail them to us at email@example.com.
We should have mostly clear skies tonight, so prime viewing conditions are in order. Just be sure to bring along a jacket, as it'll be chilly. The best place is to get away from city lights, but as you read earlier, we even saw then in the relatively bright Kirkland and Tacoma areas. All that's left is to look north. Peak times are usually around midnight, but this storm is so intense, they might be out shortly after sunset.
The Northern Lights are caused when the sun gives off electrically-charged particles from solar flares. The Earth's magnetic poles act like, well, a magnet to draw those particles to the polar regions.
When the particles interact with the atmosphere, they give off the beautiful ribbons of purple, blue, red and green.
They're most common around the Arctic Circle, but during particularly strong solar flares, they can be seen as far south as Arizona.
But aside from pretty displays, they do have the power to be disruptive. Strong solar flares have been known to interfere with power grids and cause temporary power outages. They can also interfere with satellite, radio and navigation transmissions.
For More Information:
Solar Flares/Northern Lights