Space weather experts at NASA and NOAA are warning that a solar storm could strike Earth on Thursday or Friday; in addition to triggering aurora far from the poles, a strong solar storm could also disrupt electrical generation systems, the electric grid, satellite communications, and radio signals.
Space weather physicist Dr. Tamitha Skov said aurora is possible in the mid-latitudes, which are typically at 30-60 degrees. Skov Tweeted, “This solar storm could bring aurora down to places like the United Kingdom’s Northumberland and Norfolk, United States’ Maine, Minnesota, and Washington, and up to southern New Zealand and Tasmania down under.”
While typically known for their weather forecasts, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its National Weather Service (NWS) is also responsible for “space weather.” While there are private companies and other agencies that monitor and forecast space weather, the official source for our alerts and warnings of the space environment is the Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC).
The SWPC is located in Boulder, Colorado, and is a service center of the NWS, which is part of NOAA. The Space Weather Prediction Center is also one of nine National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) as they monitor current space weather activity 24/7, 365 days a year.
The most powerful solar storms send coronal mass ejections (CMEs), containing charged particles, into space. If Earth happens to be in the path of a CME, the charged particles can slam into our atmosphere, disrupt satellites in orbit and even cause them to fail, and bathe high-flying airplanes with radiation.
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