Particles from a massive solar flare Monday are en route to earth, and they may have interesting effects in our own atmosphere. When charged emissions from solar flares encounter atoms in Earth’s ionosphere, they stimulate the phenomenon we know as the aurora borealis or “northern lights”.
The aurora borealis is normally only visible at specific latitudes, causing the night sky to light up with a spectrum of colors, from blues and greens to vivid reds. The solar flares that can give rise to the phenomenon commonly reach temperatures of 35 million degrees Fahrenheit as they eject streams of solar gases into space.
According to National Geographic, “strong geomagnetic activity is expected Wednesday night, perhaps most visibly in the form of auroras.” The northern lights are a relatively common phenomenon at Alaska’s latitude, but tonight they could appear as far south as Washington D.C.