Thursday’s solar storm forecast is expected to give skywatchers in 17 US states a chance to catch a glimpse of the aurora borealis, the colorful sky display that occurs when solar winds hit the atmosphere.
The northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis, are often seen in Alaska, Canada and Scandinavia, but an 11-year solar cycle expected to peak in 2024 makes the lights visible even further to the south. Three months ago, displays of light were visible in Arizona, marking the third intense geomagnetic storm since the current solar cycle began in 2019.
The University of Alaska Geophysical Institute in Fairbanks predicted auroral activity Thursday in Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Indiana. , Maine and Maryland.
Northern Lights activity has also been forecast for Canada, including Vancouver.
The light shows are expected to be visible above in Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Helena, Montana, and lower on the horizon in Salem, Oregon; Boise, Idaho; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Annapolis, Maryland; and Indianapolis, according to the institute.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center said people who want to experience the aurora borealis should stay away from city lights and that the best viewing times are between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. local time.
The northern lights occur when the solar magnetic wind strikes the Earth’s magnetic field and causes atoms in the upper atmosphere to glow. The lights appear suddenly and vary in intensity.
A geomagnetic index known as Kp ranks auroral activity on a scale of zero to nine, with zero being very inactive and nine being bright and active. The Geophysical Institute Kp 6 forecast for Thursday’s storm.
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