In fact, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administrations Space Weather Prediction Center suggests that the aurora borealis — or Northern Lights — could be visible as far south as Iowa and Colorado.
A rare solar storm may bring the Northern Lights south to the US
This relatively rare event can be tracked to March 20 when a powerful eruption of solar energy sent an unusually large stream of electrically charged particles streaming toward Earth.
A geostorm will give residents in the Northern US and Canada a rare chance to see the aurora borealis
Normally, such particles simply collide with gas particles in Earths atmosphere and put on their colorful display, much like the glow of a neon light. Oxygen molecules give off a familiar, ghostly green aurora, while nitrogen produces blue or red.
While no cause of alarm for personal safety, or even the sensitive North American power grids, the arrival of this potent burst of energy can trigger a geomagnetic storm and disrupt the delicate balance around the poles.
The storm, in turn, pushes the swirling aurora off course, driving it southward for as long as three days and putting on its magic show.
A Rare Sight: Northern Lights May Be Visible In New York
Theres no guarantee, either on the timing or the conditions for colorful display, but for the best view, look to the east Saturday night before midnight, as the aurora rises, or to the west after midnight. Warning: this only works if the skies are clear and dark.
Another warning: Dont expect aurora borealis to put on a dazzling show farther south, where it might appear as only a glow on the horizon in places like Detroit and Chicago.
In Chicago, Michelle Nichols, the director of public observing at Adler Planetarium, tells Time Out Chicago there are any variables to contend with.
“Theres no one place [or time] we can tell people to look, theres no one place we can tell people to go,” says Nichols. “If you want to take a chance, go far from the city, where youre farther away from light pollution.”
Theres a chance the aurora borealis light show will be on full-display for observers across Montana, Minnesota, Michigan and New York, according to the University of Alaska Fairbankss Geophysical Institute aurora forecast Saturday.
Other regions further south may also get a glimpse of the color-filled spectacle, the institute found. Wyoming, Nebraska, and Indiana are projected to have low visibility, and even Annapolis, Maryland, may get glimmers of the lights.
The weather prediction center issued a geomagnetic storm watch on Wednesday after detecting a small solar flare, a high-energy burst fired by a sunspot, that was followed by a coronal mass ejection (CME).
Northern Lights Visible In Pittsburgh This Weekend? Not Likely
Typically the lights are reserved for observers in the northern latitudes across Alaska, Canada, and Scandinavia. But this weekend the aurora borealis is making a relatively rare appearance across large swaths of the US thanks to a solar flare, or an influx of charged particles, that erupted on March 20.
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.
The experience is thanks to s geomagnetic storm that is expected to occur in the area Saturday. Typically geomagnetic storms create solar winds that cause gas particles in Earths atmosphere to radiate light when it hits them. Saturday that geo agent storm will be hit with a coronal mass ejections (CME), which is a collection of charged particles from the layer of gas that surrounds the sun, The Points Guy reports.
Northern Lights could be visible in NI
On Saturday, the Space Weather Prediction Center issued a moderate geomagnetic storm watch, which increases the likelihood of an intensified Northern Lights. Depending on if or when the particles collide with the Earths magnetic field, the Northern Lights may be bright enough to spot as far south as Iowa and Colorado.
As for where you might see them tonight, that answer is specifically extremely northern areas like Michigan, Wisconsin, and Maine. If the storm is a strong one, Chicago and New York could also see the lights. Canada, Scandinavia, and parts of northern Britain and Ireland also might have a chance of seeing the lights.
Northern lights may be visible in New York this weekend
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.
Tonights #aurora storm is perfect for kids: best time is after sunset, before moonrise. So a “not-too-late” night + not a school night. Set expectations: theres a 50/50 chance the the storm is a no-go. Take them #stargazing, and if the #NorthernLights dance, BONUS! pic.twitter.com/hxmhvZZI7Z
For the best results, the UAF Geophysical Institute recommends looking out for the aurora three to four hours before midnight.
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