Hopeful sky gazers are hoping to get the rare chance to spot the Aurora Borealis over the weekend, but it’s going to depend on how strong a geomagnetic storm hits near earth.
The National Weather Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a geomagnetic storm watch for Sunday and Monday.
Here’s what that means and how that happens.
Earlier on Friday a huge sunspot erupted on the surface of our sun, and an enormous solar flare – which is an explosion – ejected from the area. This explosion produced what scientists call a coronal mass ejection (CME).
A CME is a burst of magnetized plasma that interacts with the earth's magnetic field to produce geomagnetic storms and an enhanced aurora around the north and south poles.
So when this energy arrives near earth on Sunday, it could spark a geomagnetic storm and brilliant auroras at far northerly latitudes.
If the storm is strong enough, Washington State could be in for a show, but KIRO 7 Pinpoint Meteorologist Morgan Palmer cautions we won't know for sure until late Sunday evening. That's because the energy levels tend to fluctuate wildly during a geomagnetic storm greatly affecting how far south the Northern Lights are visible.
He will be tracking the potential on KIRO 7 News starting Sunday night at 5 p.m. and continuing at 6:30 and 11 p.m.
The aurora borealis -- the "Northern Lights" -- is a region of charged gases in the ionosphere, a region around 50 miles above the earth's surface. These gases give off light from green to orange to red depending on the type of gas being excited by the charged solar particles.
© 2020 Cox Media Group