Tonights the night for a good chance to see the northern lights in Minnesota – Star Tribune

Tonight\s the night for a good chance to see the northern lights in Minnesota - Star Tribune
Geomagnetic storm to hit earth Saturday, Aurora may be visible in northern US
An increase in solar activity could make the aurora borealis more visible across upper states across the United States, prompting excitement from aurora chasers.

“We havent had a decent chance for an aurora in a couple of months,” said Bob King of Duluth, an amateur astronomer and retired Duluth News Tribune photo editor. “We all get excited.”

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Solar storm heading to Earth may bring Northern Lights far south. Heres how to see the auroras.

The geomagnetic storm means the aurora may be visible Saturday afternoon in the dark northern European sky, but not in Minnesota. By nightfall here, the solar forecast is downgraded to a 5 Kp, which is the measure of magnetic activity ranging from zero to nine — the higher the number, the more likely the lights are visible.

Saturdays aurora forecast from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF)s Geophysical Institute. Auroras generally occur when charged particles from the sun form a fast-moving cloud. When these particles crash into Earths atmosphere, they release energy in the form of light, which most commonly appears as shimmering green, though it may also blend into hues of blue and red-purple depending on the altitude and the types of gases with which the particles collide. Solar flares, like the one that occurred on March 20, may supercharge the auroras glow so that its visibility extends farther than usual.

While Saturday nights forecast isnt extraordinary, it does mean theres a chance to see the aurora across Minnesota and possibly as far south as the northern parts of the Twin Cities. King said its also possible the aurora could hit a 6 Kp, which would mean the lights would be more visible near the metro area. His advice: Go away from any light pollution and check the dark skies after nightfall until 1 a.m. Sunday. Thats what hell do, driving dirt roads outside Duluth to look for a place with fewer trees and dark skies, then waiting and watching overhead.

Still, theres a chance the storm may not be entirely visible to any of these regions in the US. The ideal conditions for such an effect require clear and dark skies, which means that rural star-gazers will likely have an easier time spotting the lights than most city dwellers. It also doesnt help that the near-full moon Saturday night may obscure visibility.

Of course, like any weather phenomenon, its hard to predict when and where the elusive lights will show up. However, King said spring and fall are the best chances to see the northern lights in Minnesota.

Across the world, viewing the northern lights has become a growing attraction, with aurora-chasing tours, hotels boasting aurora views and tourists flocking to places around the globe just to see the lights.

ABC7 meteorologist Josh Knight says the strength of the Aurora is measured with the KP Index, and this weekend's is forecast to reach a 6 (9 is the highest) on Saturday night. Anything above a 5 is considered a geomagnetic storm.

In northern Minnesota along Lake Superior, Cook County has started touting its dark skies in the Arrowhead and the possibility of viewing the aurora there. For two years, Two Harbors has now hosted a national Aurora Summit, drawing aurora hunters from as far away as Hawaii and New York City. And in the metro, the northern lights has inspired everything from Minnesotas Super Bowl gear to the new Allianz Fields lights.

Northern lights may be visible in New York this weekend

“Its quite memorable,” King said. “There is a tremendous amount of excitement in photographing the aurora. People want to be out there.”

Thanks to a solar flare on March 20, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says Aurora Borealis may be visible in the D.C. area.

Kelly Smith covers nonprofits/philanthropy for the Star Tribune and is based in Minneapolis. Since 2010, she’s covered Greater Minnesota on the state/region team, Hennepin County government, west metro suburban government and west metro K-12 education.

WASHINGTON, ABC7 — For those who have been wanting to see the Northern Lights, now might be your chance.

A geomagnetic storm, caused by a cloud of charged particles ejected from the sun, may bring the aurora borealis as far south as Iowa, Colorado and Washington on Saturday, as these particles bombard Earth, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations Space Weather Prediction Center.

An enormous explosion of magnetized plasma — or coronal mass ejection — burst from the Sun on Wednesday following a smaller solar flare, according to the Space Weather Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

If the storm is oriented properly, we could have a chance for auroras for several days after impact, said Tamitha Skov, a space weather scientist based in Los Angeles.

A recent study found the ejections result from disruptions of the coronal magnetic field. A disruption allows for a bubble of plasma to form on the Sun’s surface and then tear off and erupt.

Auroras form when charged particles from the sun collide with Earths atmosphere. When there is an influx of charged particles during geomagnetic storms, this can supercharge the auroras glow, according to Terry Onsager, a physicist at the Space Weather Prediction Center.

The ejection is expected to reach Earth on Saturday and light up the skies in much of the northern and southern hemispheres, according to a geomagnetic storm watch issued by the prediction center.

Its like a big battery driving electricity through the Earths system, he said. And when that flows through the atmosphere, the atmosphere glows like a neon light.

Chicago is on the southern edge of the area most likely to be hit with the Aurora’s light. Those away from the light pollution of the city have the best chance to see the phenomenon.

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The particles are the result of a coronal mass ejection, an outpouring of plasma from the suns atmosphere that was detected by NOAA on Wednesday.

Northern lights could appear in New York and other US states this weekend — heres how to watch them

This is exciting news, considering we havent had a decently sized Earth-directed solar storm launch for quite some time, Skov said, adding that geomagnetic storms are less common during the current period of the suns 11-year activity cycle.

Northern Lights Visible In Pittsburgh This Weekend? Not Likely

Onsager said the storm could arrive Saturday morning, which means it may not be visible. But he and Skov both said that prediction could change.

Space weather forecasting today is very much like terrestrial weather forecasting was back in the 1960s, Skov said. In other words, the forecast may be off by as much as 12 hours in either direction.

Onager and Skov recommend tracking the aurora in real time using tools like NOAAs OVATION Aurora Forecast Models, which predict the Northern Lights location anywhere from a few days to a half hour in advance.

Like the sun, auroras rise in the east and sets in the west, Skov said. So, if youre looking for it before midnight, she recommends looking east. After midnight, she says, your best bet is to look west.

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