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Solar storm heightens outlook for aurora

Aurora over Seattle
The northern lights shine above Seattle’s Space Needle and Queen Anne Hill in a photo captured by Tim Durkan from West Seattle in May. (Tim Durkan Photo)

What could make a summer weekend with clear skies even more perfect? How about the northern lights?

The chances of seeing auroral displays are better than usual tonight and Sunday night. That’s due to a geomagnetic storm that’s expected to sweep past Earth this weekend.

The storm was spawned on July 13 by an outburst of electrically charged particles from the sun, known as a coronal mass ejection or CME. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center says the outburst is directed at Earth, and the peak of the wave should arrive sometime on Sunday.

The most violent outbursts have been known to disrupt satellite communications and power grids, but this one is expected to be merely moderate to strong – producing heightened auroras but no big disruptions.

For most people, the big questions are: Can I see the aurora? And if so, where and when?

Get the answers on GeekWire.

By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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