If seeing the aurora borealis, more commonly known as the Northern Lights, has long been on your bucket list, you may be in luck this week. The University of Alaska at Fairbanks has predicted that up to 17 states could see the epic light show dance across the sky. In order for this phenomenon to occur, we must be experiencing a geomagnetic storm. According to the Kp-index, which measures geomagnetic activity around the world, midweek will be at a 5 or 6. This means the likelihood of seeing the auroras further away from the north and south poles will be greater.
During a geomagnetic storm, clouds of charged particles are released into space. Upon collision with atoms in our atmosphere, they create auroras. Auroras generally present as green, blue, purple, pink or reddish lights, depending on the composition and density of the atmosphere. The Northern Lights, or aurora borealis, are usually seen near the magnetic poles of the northern or southern hemisphere.
The aurora borealis may be seen in several states, including parts of Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Wisconsin, Montana, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Maryland, New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine. On Wednesday, the storm will be highly visible lower on the horizon and Thursday it will intensify.
No special equipment is required to view the auroras, but doing the following will make your view easier. First, check your local forecast for signs of clouds or precipitation. Second, pick a spot with little light pollution. The auroras will only be visible if the skies are clear. Third, get to a higher elevation if possible. According to the Space Weather Prediction Center, the best time to view the auroras is between 10pm and 2am. For the most up-to-date information regarding the aurora forecast click here.