northern lights toronto

The northern lights may dip down to the GTA tonight

The northern lights (a.k.a aurora borealis) may be visible from the GTA tonight. A coronal mass ejection on August 1 has directed loads of plasma toward the Earth, which could spark geomagnetic activity all the way down to the Northern United States.

Websites devoted to tracking space weather confirm that there's reason to be optimistic. The NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado issued this report on August 1, which states that geomagnetic field activity "is expected to increase to unsettled to active levels with a chance for minor storm levels on August 3 as CME [coronal mass ejection] effects persist.

And according to SpaceWeather, "forecasters estimate a 10% chance of major geomagnetic storms and a 45% chance of at least some geomagnetic activity when the clouds arrive on August 3rd and 4th."

This is very exciting news to people like me who've never seen the lights before. The problem, however, is that one can't just look to the north and hope to see them (even if there is geomagnetic activity). The key is to get out of the city (preferably to the north) -- not just because this takes you further into the area where auroral activity is more likely, but because light pollution is a killer when hoping to view such phenomena. I'm thinking the King City area might be far enough, but that's tough to really know.

The show -- if it happens -- isn't really expected to be that colourful. According to York University astronomer Paul Delaney, who spoke with CTV News this morning, what we might see will be "very faint, probably greenish-white, [and] maybe with a bit of luck, some tinges of orange and red. But basically, large sheets of lights, towards the northern horizon, but well-elevated...all across the sky."

Well, I don't really care if it's faint and green -- I've been after these things for quite some time, and I plan on taking a drive up the 400 tonight.

So let's pray for clear skies and a little luck!

For a look at the event that might bring us the northern lights, take a look at the clip below, which was recorded by extreme UV cameras on board the Solar Dynamics Observatory.

Photo by ariehsinger of the blogTO Flickr pool.


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