The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, will be visible in nine states this weekend, and lucky sky-watchers as far south as Chicago might even be able to catch the faintest of faint green glows in the northern sky. If the weather cooperates, that is.
As Yahoo News reports, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has revealed that the Sun has recently experienced a magnetic storm, strong enough that the northern sky will light up with the famed lights further south than they are ordinarily visible. Over Labor Day weekend, the results of a G1 (minor) solar storm will cause the sky to light up on Saturday, August 31, followed by the results of a G2 (moderate) one on Sunday, September 1. That means that, weather permitting, there’s a good chance that the lights will be visible both nights this weekend.
What’s more, the lights will be visible as far south as the northern reaches of the conterminous United States — a rare occurrence indeed. Sky-watchers in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Maine, and the Dakotas might, just might, be able to see the lights, if conditions are right. What’s more, people as far south as Chicago, Des Moines, Milwaukee, and Boston may be able to see the faintest of faint glimpses in the northern sky.
The #NorthernLights will be widely visible across the southern half of #Canada and as far south as several northern U.S. states, according to @NOAA, who is forecasting the light show for Saturday and Sunday.— The Weather Network (@weathernetwork) August 30, 2019
The Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, and the Aurora Australis, or Southern Lights, occur when charged particles ejected from the Sun react with the Earth’s magnetosphere, causing the skies to light up. Because the Earth’s magnetic fields are strongest at the poles, rarely are the auroras visible south or north, respectively, of the Arctic or Antarctic Circles.
However, when magnetic storms occur on the Sun, such as what is happening now, the odds of the lights appearing further south (or north, as the case may be) increase greatly.
However, predicting the auroras, not unlike predicting tornadoes, is an inexact science. About all that can be said for certain is when and where the conditions will be right, but nothing is ever guaranteed. And of course, if it’s a cloudy night, all bets are off.
If you live in the areas that are expected to have a good chance of viewing the auroras this weekend, try to head away from cities or other places bedeviled by light pollution, and out into the countryside. Then, simply look north, and with any luck, you’ll get an unforgettable light show in the sky.