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Trick or treat? Massive solar storm could light up American skies this Halloween

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a warning of a geomagnetic storm

An aurora may light up the dark skies over the US Northeast, upper Midwest, and could even stretch as far as the state of Washington, potentially giving skywatchers a rare treat this Halloween weekend.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a strong warning of an incoming geomagnetic storm on Friday.

“A G3 (Strong) geomagnetic storm watch is in effect for 30 – 31 October, 2021, following a significant solar flare and coronal mass ejection (CME) from the sun that occurred around 11:35 EDT on Oct. 28,” it said. “Analysis indicated the CME departed the Sun at a speed of 973 km/s and is forecast to arrive at Earth on 30 October, with effects likely continuing into 31 October.”

Aurora borealis occur when a flurry of charged particles interact with Earth’s magnetic field. The stream of particles comes from the solar wind, and strong gusts can be generated when the Sun releases plasma into space during a coronal mass ejection.

The best chance of seeing the colorful glow is to observe the sky at high altitudes, away from light pollution, provided you're in the right part of the world.

The solar flare spewed from the Sun’s surface on 28 October was classified as an X1 event, meaning it was the weakest level of X, the most intense class of events. NASA said it disturbed some radio communications over South America and the polar regions.

The geomagnetic storm probably won’t affect electronics too much when it hits on Saturday. It’s possible it may cause some voltage irregularities and set off false alarms in some devices, and temporarily impact some radio and navigation systems, according to the NOAA.

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