Storms are exciting and we have the possibility of being affected by a big one Sunday night.  Now before you start groaning about more lousy summer weather, this one just might be really awesome and happen with clear skies.  So what type of storm am I speaking about? It’s a solar one of course.

This week a massive solar flare, lasting more than two hours, was seen on the sun.  

 The coronal mass ejection as captured by the SOHO/LASCO C2 coronagraph.

The coronal mass ejection as captured by the SOHO/LASCO C2 coronagraph. NASA

The explosion resulted in what scientists call a coronal mass ejection or CME.  This CME is now headed for earth and has prompted a Geomagnetic Storm Watch to be issued by the Space Center part of NOAA.  A watch in this case is similar to other weather watches we have.  It means conditions are favorable for the occurrence, but it’s not a sure bet.  Predicting how the CME will spark up the aurora borealis is not a sure bet.

A moderate geomagnetic watch is posted for Sunday NASA

Kp levels are used to determine where the aurora might be seen.  If the Kp levels reach 6 and 7, that is when New England, including greater Portland, can have an opportunity to see the aurora.   

How will you know?

There are all many sources for the latest solar activity and real-time Kp levels.  Remember, we are hoping for Kp levels of 6 or higher, a 7 would be awesome and almost ensure sightings of the northern lights in  all of Maine and New Hampshire.  My personal favorites are from the University of Alaska’s Geophysical Institute. as well as soft serve news.  This site allows you to subscribe to text alerts for a small fee.  

Scientists are already getting excited about this CME and possible aurora.  Twitter is another good resource to check out the possibility of seeing the northern lights. I will definitely be tweeting updates Sunday night if things start looking promising. The National Weather Service tweeted Sunday morning that the best viewing possibilities for most areas would be between sundown and 2 a.m.

Twitter is a great resource to find out the latest news on the aurora borealis

Twitter is a great resource to find out the latest news on the aurora borealis

What we are hoping is for the ovation maps which show the aurora to have that green line running through the area Sunday night.  If that is the case, you’ll want to quickly get somewhere where it’s dark and look up.  Aurora tend to come in pulses, and don’t last long.  Having a view to the northern horizon will provide the best opportunity and remember, it needs to be dark.

If the aurora maps show the green area running through our area, you should look for the northern lights. Remember to find a dark area. NOAA

Follow Dave Epstein on Twitter @growingwisdom