A massive solar storm hit Earth on August 5, raising the possibility of auroras being visible even at relatively low latitudes, as well as potential disruptions to communications satellites and GPS devices.


"My estimate is we will probably get aurorae in the northern tier of the U.S.," physicist Brian J. Anderson told the Baltimore Sun's meteorology blogger. "We might be able to see it in the Baltimore-Washington area if it [the magnetic field in the solar storm] turns due south."

According to spaceweather.com, the burst of radio static which reached the earth on the evening of August 4th -- prior to the main electromagnetic blast -- was "so powerful that receivers on Earth picked it up after sunset." Events of that kind are extremely rare, and radio astronomers have never been able to offer a conclusive explanation for how they happen.

While Northern Lights as far south as Baltimore are no certain thing, observers in the more northerly states have a good chance of witnessing a sky show on Friday night. Joe Kunches of the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center, for example, is predicting that auroras will be seen over Seattle -- cloud cover permitting.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.