Strong Northern Lights Predicted

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By Jay Dobensky on January 9, 2014, 9:50am Last modified: January 10, 2014, 10:21am

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When word first came out about the huge Mass Coronal Ejection heading towards Earth from the sun earlier this week my first reaction was to put a reminder on my phone to check the updates for a possible Aurora Borealis viewable across New England. What I didn't know of course was that this event would be classified with a 48hr long Strong Magnetic Storm Watch from The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder Colorado. I finally made it back to the site tonight and was excited beyond words to see the statement regarding the event and it's predicted Aurora strength (always difficult to anticipate) which if it even comes close will give Connecticut a rare opportunity to view one of the most beautiful things you will ever witness in your life! The strength of an event in how it correlates to being viewable is shown in the graphic depiction from NOAA, and in this case the estimate is a Kp of 7, which covers approximately the Northern quarter of the country.

My first view of a strong Northern Lights event came in 1989, and I've been a hooked Borealis chaser ever since. I was a student at Johnson State College in Northern Vermont at the time, and I had been home for a weekend of my mother's cooking and laundry skills. As I started my drive back up Interstate 91, I began to notice this faint green hue on the horizon, which grew in size and brightness as we traveled further North, After we merged onto Interstate 89 in White River Junction, VT and made it past the long, uphill climb to Bethel, my friend in the passenger seat and I were simply mesmerized by the incredible display in front of us on the open highway at midnight. Not that I would ever recommend it, but we slowed down on the long straightaways of highway between exits four and ten on I-89 and shut the headlights off on the car, there was plenty of natural light to drive to on the road between the moonlight and the Northern Lights. It was truly one of the most surreal and memorable trips I have ever taken on that road.

The effect we see and describe as The Northern Lights is caused by the Coronal Cloud bombarding the Earth's atmosphere with it's charged particles ramming into gaseous particles present in our atmosphere. Those collisions produce the different colors we see based on the type of particle, the most common being oxygen, which produces that classic greenish color. Blue, red, purple and yellow have also been seen, although I have seen only blue and the common green. Although beautiful to the eye, the Aurora Borealis is a punishing process to our atmosphere. These particles are mostly shielded by our Earth's magnetic field, but due to the weaker fields present at both poles the electrons and protons can penetrate the atmosphere much more easily and result in collision. 

Unfortunately, we do have some cloudiness working across Southern New England tonight, and perhaps more for tomorrow night. If you are brave enough to endure some time out in the cold, and you have a clear sky, look to the Northern horizon during the overnight. You may quite literally see something you will never forget! You can obtain the latest information the magnetic storm watches and Aurora Borealis forecasts by visiting the NOAA/SEC website:

http://www.swpc.noaa.gov

Please follow my Twitter feed @StormTrooperJay for the latest updates on this event.

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Jay Dobensky

Town: Wolcott, CT  

Reporting for WXedge since November 2012.

Articles: 120

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