A geomagnetic storm has been forecast to hit Earth this week, due to high speed solar wind streams resulting from a coronal hole. This all sounds very scary, and media coverage of the event has ranged from apocalyptic to promising a planet bathed in beautiful auroras, but the truth is a little less spectacular than that. Most of us won’t actually notice the solar storm’s activity at all – but if you’re lucky you may get a glimpse of an aurora.
The storm is a very mild one, the lowest level on the Space Weather Prediction Center’s scale: a G1. At this strength, geomagnetic activity has the potential to cause minor disruptions to small power grids and amplify auroras, but other than that will have very little impact on human life.
The Bureau of Meteorology’s Space Weather Services (yes, that’s a real thing) predicts geomagnetic activity to be “active” for March 14 and 15, and “unsettled” for March 16.
If you’re hoping to see the Southern Lights, Aurora Australis, tonight, you’ll probably have to be in Tasmania. At this level of geomagnetic activity the aurora is unlikely to be visible on the mainland, unfortunately.
The SWS reports a K index currently hovering between 3 and 4. At level 3, an aurora may be visible in southern Tasmania, while at level 4, visibility may be possible further north through all of Tasmania. If the levels stay high until the evening, the southernmost reaches of Australia may just be in for a show.
Check out a live updating view of both planetary and Australian indexes at the BOM’s aurora forecast page here. You can also sign up for aurora alerts, sent out by the BOM if aurora sightings are likely, here.