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‘Extreme’ geomagnetic storm may bless us with more aurora displays tonight and tomorrow

The strongest geomagnetic storm in 20 years made the colorful northern lights, or aurora borealis, visible Friday night across the US, even in areas that are normally too far south to see them. And the show may not be over. Tonight may offer another chance to catch the aurora if you have clear skies, according to the NOAA, and Sunday could bring yet more displays reaching as far as Alabama.

The NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center said on Saturday that the sun has continued to produce powerful solar flares. That’s on top of previously observed coronal mass ejections (CMEs), or explosions of magnetized plasma, that won’t reach Earth until tomorrow. The agency has been monitoring a particularly active sunspot cluster since Wednesday, and confirmed yesterday that it had observed G5 conditions — the level designated “extreme” — which haven’t been seen since October 2003. In a press release on Friday, Clinton Wallace, Director, NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, said the current storm is “an unusual and potentially historic event.”

Geomagnetic storms happen when outbursts from the sun interact with Earth’s magnetosphere. While it all has kind of a scary ring to it, people on the ground don’t really have anything to worry about. As NASA explained on X, “Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth’s atmosphere” to physically affect us. These storms can mess with our technology, though, and have been known to disrupt communications, GPS, satellite operations and even the power grid.

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