Missoula May Have a Great View of Northern Lights This Week
It looks like the sun is fixing on tossing some energy our way. A geomagnetic storm is brewing in the northern hemisphere. That means a good chance at spotting the aurora borealis, or "northern lights." This geomagnetic storm is forecasted to take place Wednesday (7/12) through Thursday (7/13).
What causes the nor(thern lights?
It is crazy to think about the science behind the earth's magnetic poles. Earth is basically one big molten chunk of iron and nickel. That molten metal creates reverse poles, which create the earth's electromagnetic field. It is our electromagnetic field that protects every living creature from radioactive particles in space. Think of it as what sci-fi movies call a "force field" or "shield."
According to Wikipedia
Auroras are the result of disturbances in the magnetosphere caused by solar wind. These disturbances are sometimes strong enough to alter the trajectories of charged particles in both solar wind and magnetospheric plasma. These particles, mainly electrons and protons, precipitate into the upper atmosphere.
So, an aurora is basically the light show that our electromagnetic field puts off when it is fighting off radioactive solar particles. These are measured in what is called a Kp index. On a scale of 0 to 9, the index measures how much geomagnetic activity will happen in the atmosphere.