The Northern Lights could be visible from 17 US states on Thursday, including places as far south as Maryland, the Associated Press reported.
The colorful sky display, which is also known as aurora borealis, is most frequently seen in places like Canada and Scandinavia, but an upcoming solar storm means the lights are expected to be visible from parts of the US.
According to The AP, the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks expects “auroral activity” in Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Indiana, Maine, and Maryland.
People in parts of the country including Annapolis, Maryland and Boise, Idaho, should also be able to see the lights low on the horizon, the report adds.
To see the aurora, it’s vital to have “clear and dark sky,” per the Geophysical Institute, which adds that “the best time to watch for aurora is the three or four hours around midnight, but aurora occurs throughout the night.”
Those hoping to get a good view should get away from city lights between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. local time, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration recommended, per The AP.
An aurora occurs when a solar wind — a stream of charged particles — collides with the Earth’s magnetic field, causing atoms to light up.
Thursday’s lights are set to be more visible as the forecasted solar storm will result in increased auroral activity.
Solar maximums — when solar activity is at its greatest — take place roughly every 11 years. The current cycle is expected to peak in 2024, which has led to more solar storms and auroral activity as far south as California and Arizona.
According to the Geophysical Institute, in one rare event in 1958, the Northern Lights were even visible from Mexico City.
Sky-gazers in parts of the UK may be treated to a display of the northern lights on Thursday night as solar winds race towards Earth at about 1 million mph.
People in Scotland, the north of England and Northern Ireland may have the best chance to view the colourful aurora caused by charged particles from the sun colliding with molecules in the Earth’s upper atmosphere.
The charged particles are a result of a phenomenon known as coronal mass ejection – a sudden release of plasma from the sun’s corona, the outermost part of its atmosphere.
The Met Office said the northern lights would be visible at night from Thursday 6 to Saturday 8 July, clear skies permitting.
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