A large geomagnetic storm from the outer bands of the sun will trigger widespread auroras (the Northern Lights) across many parts of the country over the next several days.

If you want to view the Northern Lights, try to find a place that doesn’t have a lot of city light pollution. In northern Indiana, you might be able to see them low on the horizon.

These geomagnetic storms are released along the outer surface of the sun and are called Coronal Mass Ejections or CMEs. Several small CMEs were released on August 14 and 15. The CME on August 18-19 will potentially blend and overspread with the magnetic energy from the previous storms. This CME has been given a rating of ‘G3’ from NOAA. This is classified as a very strong geomagnetic storm which could produce some irregularities with GPS and some problems with power grids.

According to NOAA,

These solar storms happen every 11 years as the sun completes a solar cycle in which mass amounts of radiation and plasma are emitted.

These huge eruptions contain what is equivalent to the power of several nuclear bombs all exploding from the surface of the sun. This energy then flies toward the Earth. The CMEs can travel at speeds of over a million miles per hour, and the ejected mass of protons and electrons can cross the 93-million-mile distance from the sun to the Earth in a matter of days.  

Gigantic Aurora borealis (Northern Lights) above mountains near Atigun Pass, Dalton Highway, Alaska, USA. If we see the “Northern Lights” across Indiana and Ohio, the sky show will be much different, limited to just some lights low on the horizon.

Auroras are visible to the naked eye without the use of a telescope. Since this storm is so strong NOAA predicts that the geomagnetic fields will be projected farther south than usually seen and that means the northern parts of Indiana and Ohio may be able to experience the sightings of the Northern Lights.

The potential at seeing the Northern Lights is decreasing on this Thursday night into Friday morning, but a local sighting is still possible if conditions line up just right. Take a look at this slideshow that compares the Wednesday night – Thursday potential with the Thursday night – Friday potential. The chance at seeing the Northern Lights locally is gone by Saturday.