This week, a powerful solar storm will bring the Northern Lights farther south than usual, allowing millions of Americans to view a celestial sight that is typically inaccessible from their own backyards.
On Thursday, a predicted solar storm in the atmosphere will bring skywatchers in 17 states a sighting of the dazzling aurora borealis light show.
The Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks predicts that observers will be able to view the Northern Lights from Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan, as well as from New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Indiana, Maine, and Maryland.
While areas close to Salem, Oregon, Boise, Idaho, Cheyenne, Wyoming, Annapolis, Maryland, and Indianapolis will be able to watch the show low on the horizon, cities like Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Helena, Montana, will be able to see the event overhead.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Space Weather Prediction Center advises people in those areas to schedule their viewing for between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. local time.
LOOK UP 👀 A solar storm forecast for Thursday is expected to give sky-gazers in 17 American states a chance to glimpse the Northern Lights.
People wanting to experience an aurora should get away from city lights and that the best viewing times are between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. pic.twitter.com/tksmk4ASuV
— PIX11 News (@PIX11News) July 10, 2023
Vancouver will be among the Canadian cities that will be able to see the aurora, according to experts.
When atoms and molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere collide with a solar flare from the sun, the atoms in the upper atmosphere illuminate, resulting in auroras.
The Northern Lights rarely go south enough for observers in the continental United States to catch a glimpse. They are most frequently observed in Alaska, Canada, and Scandinavia. However, a powerful solar storm in April carried the light display as far south as New Mexico and Arizona.
According to Bill Murtagh, program coordinator at the Boulder, Colorado-based NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center, the show improves the further north you go as the energetic particles contact with the atmosphere closer to Earth. As the particles interact higher in the atmosphere further south, the curvature of the Earth blocks out the most brilliant features of the Northern Lights, producing a reddish hue rather than the distinctive green curtains. said, Murtagh.