Northern Lights, the Aurora Borealis, are expected in the northern United States tonight
The Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, could be visible over parts of the northern United States on Wednesday evening, space weather researchers said.
SpaceWeather.com reported that the lights may be seen farther south than usual, and may even be visible in US states like Oregon, Nebraska, and Virginia.
The celestial spectacle is due to a geomagnetic storm now rushing toward Earth.
According to Space.com, the geomagnetic storm is the result of a massive coronal mass ejection from the sun that occurred Sunday night. The energetic particles from the burst were expected to arrive early Wednesday morning.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center said Wednesday that more storm impact from another mass ejection is expected on Thursday and Friday – so tonight may not be your only chance to see the northern lights this week.
Northern Lights Photos:See the Northern Lights illuminate skies over multiple states
Where will the Northern Lights be seen on Wednesday?
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center, the northern lights will be most likely to be seen in the northern part of the United States, such as northern Michigan and Maine, on Wednesday evening.
The lights can also be seen in Alaska and parts of Canada.
NOAA reports that the Northern Lights will likely be visible tonight in parts of these “Lower 48” states: Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York and Maine.
Late Wednesday afternoon, satellite imagery showed skies were clear across much of the U.S. northern border, except for some cloudy areas of western Montana, the eastern Dakotas and much of Minnesota.
The colorful aurora are formed when particles emanating from the sun are trapped in the earth’s magnetic field. The particles interact with molecules of atmospheric gases, producing the famous bright green and reddish colors of the aurora.
Tips for watching the Northern Lights
“Go out at night,” NOAA said. “And away from the city lights. The moon will also reduce the apparent brightness of the aurora.”
The best aurora can usually be seen within an hour or two after midnight (between 10:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. local time). These hours expand towards evening and morning as geomagnetic activity increases.
There can be auroras in the evening and morning, but they’re usually not as active and therefore not as visually appealing, NOAA said.
The geomagnetic storm G2 is responsible for this
NOAA classified the geomagnetic storm as a G2 event or “moderate.”
A G2 is the second level of NOAA’s five-level solar storm scale. (G1 storms are considered minor and G5 storms are considered extreme.) The higher the level, the more likely the aurora will occur.
Geomagnetic storms can affect Earth’s infrastructure, potentially disrupting communications, power grids, navigation, radio and satellite operations, NOAA says. Disruption to technology from a G2 storm generally remains small, but the storm can push the aurora further south from its usual position over the polar region, NOAA said.
The effects of the geomagnetic storm are expected to subside by Thursday and Friday, according to NOAA.