Wanna check something of your bucket list this weekend? Rent a car, grab some snacks and curate the perfect playlist—the northern lights might only be a road trip away. Might as well cancel that trip to Iceland!
Thanks to an upcoming geomagnetic storm, the aurora borealis could be seen as far south as New York and Chicago on Saturday, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
A G2 (Moderate) geomagnetic storm watch is in effect for the 23 March, 2019 UTC-day due to anticipated CME arrival. The CME was associated with a C4 flare on 20 March, 2019 at 1118 UTC (0718 EDT). Continue to monitor our SWPC webpage for additional updates. pic.twitter.com/tjZIGFiLSz— NOAA Space Weather (@NWSSWPC) March 20, 2019
The storm is the result of a solar flare and Coronal Mass Ejection—aka a giant blob of plasma released from the sun—heading towards earth. A G2 (or moderate) level storm like this occurs about 600 times every 11 years, according to Rob Steenburgh, Acting Lead for the Space Weather Forecast Office.
But don’t get too excited. There's a possibility you may need to travel as far north as Canada to get significant visibility, Steenburgh said. If the lights are seen from New York, it would be at about 11am.
“Chances are pretty slim at this point,” he added.
As always, predictions can change. The orientation of the magnetic field is only clear about 45 minutes before it hits earth. If the field is in North/South positioning and attracts to earth’s magnetic field, the geomagnetic storm can be much more intense.
“There’s absolutely a chance the prediction can change,” Steenburgh said. “And that’s something people have to be ready for.”