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If you're not surrounded by city lights, look for Northern Lights

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NOAA says a big storm is coming our way.

No need for an ark, though, because this storm is a geomagnetic one. And "coming our way" means it will reach Earth's magnetosphere.

Huh?

Translation: look for the Northern Lights Thursday and Friday nights because Minnesota has a good chance of seeing one of nature's great sky shows.

https://twitter.com/mark_tarello/status/781464183246237696

https://twitter.com/NWSTwinCities/status/781504928590204928

How can we tell when they're going to show up?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (that's the NOAA we mentioned earlier) has a Space Weather Prediction Center to serve all our space weather needs.

They've spotted a geomagnetic storm traveling through space from the sun. When those storms reach Earth, they create aurora like the Northern Lights.

The heavier the geomagnetic storm is, the farther south the aurora are visible. The space forecasters have called this week's storm a G2, which is a moderate one.

As the map above shows, the Northern Lights should be visible in all of Minnesota except for the extreme southern part.

What is a geomagnetic storm?

AccuWeather calls it a powerful burst of solar wind. Solar wind contains a stream of charged ions from the sun.

As NOAA explains when that solar magnetic field, which is headed south, gets near Earth, where the magnetic field goes north, it creates a disturbance and there's an exchange of energy (which we think means green lights and weird shapes and stuff).

A couple numbers we can't really comprehend

Geomagnetic storms are a different animal than the storms we wait out on a fishing trip.

The stream of charged particles in those solar winds are moving at a speed of 1.6 million miles per hour, AccuWeather says.

So there's that.

If you want to follow along as the storm comes in, spaceweather.com updates its site with tracking information including the speed of the solar wind. When we checked it was 683 kilometers per second.

OK.

We'll just leave the science to them and look north for some green lights.

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