The northern lights may be traveling south and could be seen across the mainland US from the West to East Coasts Thursday and Friday.
Not only that, but this is one of the most ideal times to gander at the powerful color spectrum due to the change of seasons, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“Due to subtleties in the way the solar wind interacts with Earth’s magnetosphere, there is a tendency toward larger geomagnetic storms, and thus better auroras, to occur near the equinoxes.”
NOAA charts show that the lights may be seen as far west as Washington state, as far south as Iowa and northern Illinois, and as far east as Maine Thursday night. The Southern Tier, Western New York and upstate have the best chances within the Empire State of catching a glimpse as well.
The lights could still be visible in the US on Friday, but only to northern regions like Montana, the tip of the midwest, Maine and the New York-Canadian border.
This particular vibrant display is all thanks to a massive gape in the sun — known scientifically as a coronal hole — which will be bringing an electromagnetic storm of solar winds to the Earth.
“When the high-speed [solar] wind reaches Earth, the particles and the magnetic field it carries will interact with Earth’s magnetic field, effectively rattling it or like ringing a bell,” Alex Young, the associate director for science at NASA Goddard’s Heliophysics Science Division, told Insider.
“The current coronal hole, the big one right now, is about 300,000 to 400,000 kilometers across …. That is about 20 to 30 Earths lined up back-to-back.”
Unlike a coronal mass ejection — which per the US Naval Institute “can have effects similar to a man-made [electromagnetic pulse]” — the biggest byproduct of the sun’s current hole is mainly the awe-inspiring sky lights rather than a doomsday blackout.
On the Kp Index — a 0 to 9 measure used to determine geomagnetic activity — Thursday night’s anticipated show was listed at 6, or “moderate” as of Thursday morning, and Friday is at a “minor” 4, per NOAA.
Readings from the past 24 hours show current space weather reached a “strong” 7 on the scale.
If it were to reach 8, there is risk for “possible widespread voltage control problems” and at a 9 “some grid systems may experience complete collapse or blackouts,” according to the agency.
For those looking to chase the lights, NOAA says that the “best” time to view “is usually within an hour or two of midnight (between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.).”
“These hours of active aurora expand toward evening and morning as the level of geomagnetic activity increases. There may be aurora in the evening and morning but it is usually not as active and therefore, not as visually appealing.”
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