Blown away by last month's total solar eclipse and eager for another celestial phenomenon? If you happen to live in the northern U.S., the sun has you covered.
NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) is predicting a major G3-class geomagnetic storm to trigger impressive auroras as far south as Washington, Wyoming, Illinois, New York and Maine. The displays are expected to last from Sept. 6 into the evening of Sept. 7.
The yellow line in the map below shows the extent of where the light show is expected to be visible.
This latest burst of auroral activity is courtesy of a coronal mass ejection (CME) from the sun that took place on Sept. 4. This massive stream of plasma travels at an average speed of about one million miles per hour; covering the 93-million-mile distance between the Earth and sun in only a few days. When the stream hits Earth's magnetosphere, it interacts to form beautiful bands of light of varying color and complexity.
You can see a real-time, high-res video of a 2015 aurora display over Alaska below:
Should cloudy skies spoil your view of the heavens over the next few nights, it's possible an even larger portion of the U.S. may get a shot at viewing the northern lights later in the week. The SWPC just announced that the sun has released a massive X9.3-class solar flare, the largest in over a decade.
According to SpaceWeather, the flare unleashed X-rays and UV radiation that ionized the top of Earth's atmosphere and led to "a strong shortwave radio blackout over Europe, Africa and the Atlantic Ocean."
While no CME has been detected yet, it's very likely that another –– possibly even stronger –– stream of plasma is headed our way.
"It was accompanied by radio emissions that suggest there's a potential for a CME," SWPC space scientist Rob Steenburgh told Space.com. "However, we have to wait until we get some coronagraph imagery that would capture that event for a definitive answer."
Best to have those lawn chairs ready just in case.