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Solar storm may stir up New Years Eve Aurora

Posted at 10:56 PM, Dec 30, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-30 23:23:41-05

It’s traveling toward Earth a 500 miles per second. It will reach our planet during the early morning hours of New Year’s Eve. And for some, it may light up the sky.

On December 28th, the sun spit out a blast of energy called a Coronal Mass Ejection, or CME. This one is directly aimed at Earth.

It takes a the energy from a CME about 2 days to reach Earth, and, once it does, it interacts with the Earth's magnetic field creating that favorite phenomena we call the Aurora Borealis.

But, before you get all excited. The odds of seeing the Aurora here in Northern Ohio are pretty slim. First of all, timing is everything. This latest burst of energy from the sun will reach Earth right around midnight on January 31st. That means the best conditions for auroras could easily occur while it’s still daylight here in Ohio. With just a little energy left for us once the sun goes down on the North Coast.

Secondly, it takes a pretty strong CME from the sun to create Northern Lights that are visible this far south across Northern Ohio. Auroras are mainly seen close to where they form, near the poles. Santa Claus sees them a lot more often than we do. Only the biggest, meanest CME's from the sun create auroras for Ohio. This current burst is strong, but probably not strong enough for an Ohio light show.

The third reason we probably won't see the aurora here? Clouds. Skies will be mostly cloudy through sunrise on New Year’s Day here in Northern Ohio. And, as any Borealis Boss knows, even the thinnest clouds will block out the vivid colors of the Northern Lights.