A solar storm expected on Thursday is set to provide an opportunity for skygazers in 17 American states to witness the awe-inspiring Northern Lights, also known as aurora borealis. These captivating displays occur when solar wind interacts with the Earth’s atmosphere.
Typically, the Northern Lights are most commonly observed in Alaska, Canada, and Scandinavia. However, due to an 11-year solar cycle predicted to reach its peak in 2024, these majestic lights have been observed in areas further south. As recent as three months ago, the light shows were visible in Arizona, marking the third significant geomagnetic storm since the beginning of the current solar cycle in 2019.
The Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks has released a forecast indicating auroral activity on Thursday in Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Indiana, Maine, and Maryland. Additionally, Canada, including Vancouver, can also anticipate auroral activity.
The Geophysical Institute further predicts that the Northern Lights will be visible directly above in Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Helena, Montana. Moreover, they will be seen near the horizon in Salem, Oregon; Boise, Idaho; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Annapolis, Maryland; and Indianapolis.
To experience the beauty of the Northern Lights, people are advised by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center to escape from city lights. The optimal viewing times are between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. local time.
The Northern Lights phenomenon occurs when the Earth’s magnetic field interacts with the magnetic solar wind, causing atoms in the upper atmosphere to emit a glow. The lights appear suddenly, and their intensity fluctuates.
Auroral activity levels are measured using a geomagnetic index called Kp. This scale ranges from zero to nine, with zero indicating minimal activity and nine signaling vibrant and active displays. The Geophysical Institute has forecasted a Kp level of 6 for the storm on Thursday.
In conclusion, the upcoming solar storm offers a chance for residents in 17 American states, as well as parts of Canada, to witness the extraordinary Northern Lights. With the recommended guidelines and the specified viewing times, enthusiasts in these areas have the opportunity to witness this breathtaking natural phenomenon firsthand.