The Northern Lights and other celestial events

Toronto could see a planetary parade 228 years in the making this month

Toronto skywatchers are in for more celestial activity this June.

This week, six planets are forming a straight line through the pre-dawn sky, stretching from Jupiter on the eastern end through Mercury, Uranus, Mars, Neptune, and Saturn on the western end.

According to NASA, in early June, Jupiter and Mercury will be at or below the horizon in morning twilight and not visible, while Uranus and Neptune will be far too faint to see without a telescope, especially as the morning sky brightens. On June 24, Jupiter should be visible (low in the east before sunrise).

The closest thing to a planet parade will be June 29, when Saturn, the Moon, Mars, and Jupiter will line up across the morning sky. This arrangement will continue into July.

Ontarians who missed the brilliant rays of the Northern Lights (aurora borealis) in May might have a slight chance of seeing more solar activity in coming weeks.

A giant sunspot that supercharged auroras on Earth in May continues to put out magnetic energy and may trigger more solar storms. Meteorologists suggest that there’s potential for more flares as the sunspot moves toward the centre of the sun facing the Earth, especially as we are inching closer to the peak of an 11-year solar cycle. Every 11 years, the Sun’s magnetic pole flips—leading up to this, there is a period of increased solar activity.

The U.S. government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center, which rates geomagnetic storms from G1 (minor) to G5 (extreme), designated the May 10 storm at G4 (high)—the strongest magnetic storm on Earth since 2003.

Last Friday, May 31, Borealis watchers in southern Ontario witnessed a G2 (moderate) solar storm, as NOAA’s aurora forecast predicted that the Northern Lights view line would cut across the Toronto area, throughout the Atlantic Region, and around Moncton, N.B.

Article exclusive to STREETS OF TORONTO