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St. Pat's aurora update plus a pleasing lunar lineup tonight

The sun's wind of particles has been pounding Earth's defensive magnetic shield since early this morning. A magnificent display of auroras erupted in response. While hurricane winds can reach over 200 mph, they're nothing compared to

Jupiter moon Aldeb_FEA

aurora-6387-Matthew Moses
Green auroral rays topped with pink from earlier this morning near Cloquet, Minn. photographed by Matthew Moses

The sun's wind of particles has been pounding Earth's defensive magnetic shield since early this morning. A magnificent display of auroras erupted in response. While hurricane winds can reach over 200 mph, they're nothing compared to solar wind speeds. Top speed for this storm happened at 5:07 a.m. CDT this morning  when electrons and protons hit the magnetosphere at 477 miles per second (767 km/s) or 1.7 million mph. Of course we're talking about a very dilute soup of particles compared to the far denser atmosphere, hence the destructive power of a hurricane.

Oval March 17 653pm
The colorful donut shows the extent of the auroral over at 6:53 p.m. Central time this evening recorded by the POES satellite. Red is a good indicator of strong auroral activity. Let's hope it's still there when the U.S. rotates under it later this evening. Credit: NOAA

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The storm has continued throughout the day at high levels. Judging by recent satellite plots of the auroral ovals, those vast caps of northern and southern lights centered on Earth's magnetic poles, residents of the Scandinavia countries, Iceland and Greenland must be experiencing a great light show at the moment.

Auroras look to continue into the evening hours tonight for southern Canada and the northern U.S. once darkness returns. The latest forecast calls for minor storms, but you never know. If it's clear, walk your dog and keep your eyes to the sky.

Jupiter moon Aldeb
Watch the moon slowly slip between Jupiter and Aldebaran tonight. This map shows the sky facing southwest around 10:30 p.m. Central time. Stellarium

Even if auroras fail to materialize, the moon has something fun in store. Tonight it will march  directly between the planet Jupiter and Aldebaran, the brightest star in Taurus the Bull. The three will be closest to a perfect lineup one atop the other around 10:30 p.m. Central time or 8:30 p.m. Pacific. If you look early and then check back a hour or two later, you'll easily see how quickly the moon moves through the sky as it orbits the Earth.

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