G1 Aurora Storm Watch Posted for Feb 23, 2017

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Update – The storm watch has been continued to a second day. Solar wind speeds arrived later than predicted. Aurora will continue to be possible over the next 24 hours:

SWPC extends the G1 storm watch into the 24th (green) the yellow indicate ongoing KP=4 storming
SWPC extends the G1 storm watch into the 24th (green) the yellow indicate ongoing KP=4 storming

Northern Lights Now – SWPC has issued a geomagnetic storm watch for Thursday, February 23. This means KP values could exceed 5 with aurora visible in higher latitudes. Viewing conditions will be favorable with an almost new waning crescent Moon. The confidence on this storm is a little lower than other recent storms, but is high enough to merit a watch.

The potential aurora is due to the combination of a coronal hole that was pointed towards the Earth on February 20, and a filament eruption that produces a CME from just North of the coronal hole.

The coronal hole, pictured below, is likely to produce solar wind speeds at Earth in the 500-550 km/s range. The winds could pick up anytime between 20:00 GMT on the 22nd and 8:00am GMT on the 23rd. Once wind speeds increase, if the Bz shifts southward (negative), it will indicate northern lights activity is about to increase. Monitor solar wind speed and current Bz on NLN’s DSCOVR Solar Wind Data Page to know when aurora activity is about to increase.

Coronal hole, the dark area, shown in AIA 211 image from SDO
Coronal hole, the dark area, shown in AIA 211 image from SDO

The eruption was from a filament just to the north of center disk and February 19th. Watch the eruption in the animatedGIF below. The plasma cloud is visible shooting out, mostly northward, from the location of the filament. If the material from that cloud is pulled into the solar wind, it will be accelerated and pushed toward Earth. If that happened (forecasters can’t know for sure until the solar wind arrives) it could enhance the aurora activity by increasing the plasma density and accentuating the shifts in the Bz.

AnimatedGIF showing north-center disk filament eruption on Feb 19, 2017
AnimatedGIF showing north-center disk filament eruption on Feb 19, 2017

This is a slightly lower confidence prediction because the predicted solar wind speed is moderate, and there is a good chance that none of the plasma directed was toward Earth. The plasma may move off into space well above Earth’s North Pole. The image above showing the eruption does appear to show most of the material ejected moving to the north.

Happy Hunting

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