The Northern Lights May Make Another Appearance Over the U.S. This Weekend
A solar storm Monday caused a geomagnetic storm on Wednesday that allowed people in southern Canada and the northern US to see the northern lights. However, an even larger solar eruption -- two of them, in fact -- happened Wednesday, and that means if you missed your chance, well, you might not have missed your chance.
In fact, the second solar flare Wednesday was the most powerful recorded since 2008. Look at this monster.
Wednesday's events have caused the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to extend its geomagnetic storm watch through early Saturday. That means you may be able to catch the northern lights at latitudes that don't normally see them.
The geomagnetic storm watch map provided by NOAA shows a fair chance of seeing the spectacle -- under the right conditions, of course -- in Washington, Idaho, Montana, North and South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, and the east coast as far south as the southern border of New York state.
As the weekend approaches, consider using the SWPC's 30-minute aurora forecast tool to see if the aurora is coming for you. You can also get live updates with reports from social media at Aurorasaurus. It's even showing a pretty good chance you could see the celestial sideshow Thursday night.
For your best chance at seeing the aurora borealis, get away from city lights and into a space with very dark skies. You'll be contending with a bright moon and, in the west, smoke obstructions from wild fires. But if you can get to clear skies, you have a chance to see a rare appearance from the northern lights, which will be getting temporarily more rare as the current solar cycle approaches solar minimum.
When you get out of the city, look for a greenish glow in the sky. You probably won't see the highly defined wispy bands like you see in striking images from northern lights hotspots like Fairbanks, Alaska; Iceland; or the northern reaches of Scandinavia. But it's still an impressive sight you don't often get to see just outside Chicago.
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