The northern lights are likely to be seen dancing across the sky in Alaska, Canada, the northern Plains, and parts of the Midwest tonight, thanks to a solar storm that reached Earth today.
The northern lights, or Aurora Borealis, are a phenomenon caused by a piece of the sun’s atmosphere shooting off from the sun. The lights can appear as a green haze, or a brilliant light show in the sky.
Unfortunately, the northern lights are difficult to see when certain conditions converge. The skies were mostly cloudy last night, and the full moon washes out other lights in the sky. Light pollution from cities can also make the northern lights difficult to see.
That’s no reason not to look towards the sky tonight, though. The viewing conditions should be slightly better, because the skies are expected to be much clearer. Even with the full moon, you may still be able to see the light show.
Meteorologist Mike Lynch said that this week’s event is pretty significant. “I still remember seeing some pretty good northern lights, even with a full moon,” Lynch said.
The Geophysical Institute suggests that to optimize your chances of seeing the northern lights, “Avoid city lights, and acquire a clear view of the northern horizon. Dress warmly, and plan to watch the sky between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. local time, although an active period can occur anytime during the dark hours. Active periods are about 30 minutes long, occurring every 2 hours.”
Get out your warm coats, make some coffee, get comfortable in your back yards tonight, and you may get a free light show courtesy of the sun.