Aurora warning!

One of the really cool things about living at the end of the 20th century is that there are now solar storm watches and warnings, just like tornado watches and warnings. These predictions are quite serious, because solar storms screw up earth's magnetic fields, messing up radio transmissions, magnetic compasses, spacecraft, and even power lines once in a while.

However, they are also fun, in that it is quite likely that if you go outside of Pittsburgh around midnight tonight, and it's clear, you can see the northern lights (aka aurora borealis)! There is no moon, so if it's relatively clear conditions might be good.

From this far south, you won't be able to see color, but if you're lucky, you should be able to see shimmery curtains of light in the northern sky. I saw them once from just north of North Park, and it was definitely spooky. If you try to see them, find a place where you can look to the north without any artificial lights in view (and not in or south of Pittsburgh if you can help it), and stay in the dark at least 20 minutes, for your eyes to adapt.

[Postscript: I was wrong about not seeing color! The display was truly awesome, and you could see red, green, and blue tints.]

To see the full text of the aurora warning:

Thanks to Gregg Podnar and John Pane for forwarding the alert.