'Strong' geomagnetic storm headed for Earth; aurora borealis could dazzle tonight across northern US

Folks across the far northern U.S. could have a treat Wednesday night: the appearance of the aurora borealis, known as the northern lights, in the night sky.

Thanks to a recent strong geomagnetic storm from the sun, the aurora might be visible in several northern states.

The storm is rated a G3, which is the third level of NOAA's five-level solar storm scale. (G1 storms are minor, and G5s are considered extreme.)

The colorful aurora forms when particles flowing from the sun get caught up in Earth's magnetic field. The particles interact with molecules of atmospheric gases to cause the famed glowing red and green colors of the aurora.

The aurora borealis forms when particles ejected from the sun get caught up in Earth's magnetic field.
The aurora borealis forms when particles ejected from the sun get caught up in Earth's magnetic field.

States where the aurora might be visible Wednesday night include Washington, Idaho, Montana, the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, according to Accuweather.

'MODERATE' GEOMAGNETIC STORM: Storm expected to hit Earth, giving some states chance to see northern lights

On Monday, NOAA's sun-watching satellites detected two eruptions on the surface of the sun that blasted enormous clouds of charged particles through space. These events are known as coronal mass ejections.

After analyzing the eruptions, NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center said Earth is directly in the path of the mass ejections, which is good news for those hoping to get a glimpse of the aurora, AccuWeather said.

The lights are visible in the far northern and southern parts of the world. The southern lights are known as the aurora australis.

MOON RISING: There is a full worm moon coming: When you can see it brightest

Geomagnetic storms can affect the Earth's infrastructure, possibly disrupting communications, power grids, navigation, radio and satellite operations, NOAA says. Disruptions to technology from a G3 storm generally remain small, but the storm can drive the aurora farther south from its usual position over the polar region, NOAA said.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Aurora borealis could be visible tonight thanks to geomagnetic storm