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A G3 storm could produce auroras as far south as Iowa

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In Science and Space: Calling all North and Midwesterners! After multiple coronal mass ejections (CMEs) produced by the Sun on August 14th head towards Earth, the night sky could see a particularly spectacular light show over the next few days.

A G3 category geomagnetic storm is predicted for his Aug. 18 and has been classified as a moderate storm by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Geomagnetic storms in this category can cause irregularities in power systems, intermittent errors in GPS systems, but more importantly, they can also produce auroras.

The region between the Earth and the Sun is so large that there are many CMEs that never actually reach the Earth. But every once in a while, this massive burst of energy hits our planet, resulting in geomagnetic storms that manifest as aurora borealis, usually seen near the North and South Poles.

Earth has experienced space storms throughout its history. Scientific data from Arctic ice samples show evidence of a massive geomagnetic storm as early as 774 AD.

In 1859, the Carrington Event, named after British astronomer Richard Carrington, caused massive terror when it wiped out the entire world telegraph system. The aurora was visible as far away as Colombia, in what is believed to be the largest recorded report of a solar storm hitting Earth. A telegraph operator reportedly died from electrocution after touching equipment, reportedly due to a shortage of telegraph paper igniting. The Carrington Event caused minimal damage because it occurred when humans were just beginning their technological journey. But experts say if a Carrington-style event were to take place today, the impact could be devastating due to its reliance on technology.

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According to NASA, on March 10, 1989, astronomers observed a giant CME emanating from the Sun, ejecting a billion tons of gas cloud. “It was like the energy of thousands of atomic bombs exploding at once,” NASA said.

But it wasn’t just the beautiful light show that was unusual. The power outage lasted 12 hours across Quebec, Canada.

“The intensity of this ‘geomagnetic storm’ has created spectacular ‘auroras’ that can be seen as far south as Florida and Cuba,” NASA said. This ball of energy flew toward Earth at a million miles per hour and struck the Earth’s magnetic field on March 12, 1989.

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