The aurora photographed from the International Space Station. NASA / ESA
Let’s just keep the fun going, shall we? First the eclipse, then the Venus-Jupiter conjunction topped by a display of the northern lights. A recent coronal hole on the sun could fire up a G1 minor storm this evening starting at nightfall and continuing through about 1 a.m. (Central time). Holes are regions in the sun’s corona where the magnetic field opens into space. Instead of constrained to the sun, the field lines reach outward like those snakes uncoiling from Medusa’s head and send high-speed streams of electrons and protons toward the Earth. If they arrive pointed in the right direction, they connect with our planet’s magnetic field and find their way into the atmosphere to initiate the aurora.
This coronal hole, photographed here on Jan. 21 with NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, has been huffing and puffing a subatomic solar soup in Earth’s direction. The sun looks strange because the photo was taken in far ultraviolet light. Regular light photos can’t show coronal holes and other magnetic features in the sun’s atmosphere. NASA/SDO
Let’s hope the forecast makes good. G1 storms usually are only visible from the northern regions ...