“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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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.