Geomagnetic storm watch (G1-Class)

 A CME is heading for Earth. Minor G1-class storms are possible when the storm cloud arrives on March 28th. Coronagraphs onboard the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) made this movie as the CME left the sun on March 25th:

The CME is faint, but it is moving fast (959 km/s) squarely inside the Earth strike zone. It could deliver a sharp blow to our planet’s magnetic field despite its low luminosity in the coronagraph movie.

NASA analysts have modeled the CME’s trajectory. Note the yellow dot in the animation below. That’s Earth.

If NASA’s model is correct, the CME will miss Venus on March 27th before hitting Earth around 0 hours UT on March 28th. For observers in North America, this means the geomagnetic storm could begin after local nightfall on Sunday, March 27th. Photographic auroras could descend into northern-tier US states from Maine to Washington. Aurora alerts: SMS Text.

This is a good time of year for aurora watchers. During the weeks around equinoxes, cracks form in Earth’s magnetic field, allowing solar wind to enter. Even a weak CME impact can spark a good display at high latitudes. Researchers call it the “Russell-McPherron effect,” and it could boost the effectiveness of the incoming CME. Stay tuned!

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