A stronger than expected magnetic storm will make auroras visible across the whole of the northern hemisphere Saturday night. On Friday night, the sky glowed red in the US soutwest and west, and into Mexico. In Norway, the auroras were so bright that they changed night into day. The best time to see auroras is in the deepest part of the night, around midnight. City lights will obliterate subtle displays, but many Americans could enjoy a dramatic display tonight.

Two weeks ago, when the sun’s polarity flipped, we had reached a point in the current 11 year solar maximum where we could expect dramatic solar activity. It is anticipated that solar activity levels will rise through the summer months, and if the present level is any indication, even more dramatic solar storms can be expected in the near future.

Solar magnetic storms occur when flares explode out of the area of sunspots, which are unstable “storms” on the surface of the sun. The largest sunspot ever recorded appeared in 1947, and was large enough to contain 84 planet earths. Sunspot 9393, which is producing the present high level of activity, could contain 14 planet earths. It is the largest in 10 years.

Two coronal mass ejections took place within twenty-four hours of each other, which has resulted in the present powerful geomagnetic storm.

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