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Solar Storm Strikes Earth, Spawning Low-Latitude Aurora

Solar CME from June 17-18, viewed in profile. NASA / Solar Dynamics Observatory

A serious solar storm has been battering Earth's magnetosphere, in the wake of a series of solar flares that erupted from a highly active sunspot over the last few days.

The flashes of electromagnetic waves from the flares reach Earth in just a few minutes, but enormous bursts of charged particles — known as coronal mass ejections, or CMEs — take longer to get here. The CME from the latest flare, on Sunday, was particularly fast and arrived on the coattails of earlier outbursts. As if that weren't enough, another strong flare occurred Monday.

The result is an extended and severe geomagnetic storm that reached G4 on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's space weather scale.

Spacecraft and satellites may experience glitches, but Earth's magnetic field will take the brunt of the blow for those of us living on its surface.

Unless you're using certain types of radio equipment, you shouldn't notice any trouble — but Monday night may feature some very impressive auroral displays if you're lucky enough to live in a latitude where they show up. Even if such shows are rare where you live, give the sky a glance once it's dark — this might be your best chance to see them.

Red Aurora Wows Astronaut Scott Kelly in Space 0:17

The storm is continuing and evolving, but you can keep up with its progress by watching the space weather conditions on NOAA's website.