May 24, 2024

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Giant sunspots could bring the northern lights to Massachusetts

Giant sunspots could bring the northern lights to Massachusetts

BOSTON – For the first time since 2005, our planet is now under a “severe geomagnetic storm watch.” This may sound very scary, but this is actually exciting news! The northern lights may be coming to a backyard near you!

One of the largest sunspots in decades

Right now, there is a huge sunspot directed towards Earth. Known as Sunspot AR3664, this sunspot is one of the largest sunspots we’ve seen in decades.

In fact, many experts compare it to the famous sunspot from 1859, known as the Carrington Sunspot.

AR3664 is nearly 200,000 kilometers across, the size of about 15 Earths!

Still got those Solar eclipse glasses? You can actually see the giant sunspot now on the surface of the sun using safely approved glasses!

Over the past 24 hours, several coronal mass ejections have exploded outward from the Sun and are now heading toward Earth. It is believed that some of these massive ejections will combine into a massive “cannibal CME”.

Severe geomagnetic storm

This cannibalistic coronal ejection is the reason why the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting a severe geomagnetic storm (Level G4 or severe) late Friday night and early Saturday.

Thursday’s solar flare was rated as X2.2.

X class Solar flares It is the largest followed by the M-Class and C-Class.

Within Class X, flares are divided from X1 to X9.

In short, Thursday’s solar flare was pretty big. Large enough to cause aurora farther south (in latitude) than normal but not large enough to warrant concern about power outages or grid issues.

To have a good chance of seeing anything in southern New England, we usually need to have a “k-index” (a measure of the level of geomagnetic activity) of 7 or higher.

You can see that the forecast early Saturday is for the AK to be around 8.

WBZ-TV graphic

CBS Boston

How to see the northern lights

If you want to improve your chances of seeing the northern lights, you need to find an area with the least amount of light pollution (dark). Also, give yourself a view of as much of the open sky as possible without any obstructions.

Once again, it now appears that the early hours of Saturday morning may be the peak time frame (before dawn light begins to intervene).

WBZ-TV graphic

CBS Boston

Obviously, all of this will be for naught if the weather doesn’t cooperate!

The clouds would certainly spoil the show.

There are now expected to be some clouds early Saturday morning, especially near the coast. However, overall, I would say the odds are in favor of clear or mostly clear skies for the majority of people in southern New England!

Stay tuned for updates expected in the next 24 hours. We’ll have the latest cloud cover and aurora forecasts here and on WBZ-TV!

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