At Least You Can Try to See the Northern Lights Tonight

Despite the early sunsets and the scorching winter cold, our friend, the sun, is still working hard and energizing to brighten up your dull nights. The celestial body, sensing that we feel low here on Earth, even released a very large geomagnetic storm, which added to the packed schedule of celestial activity that has taken over the sky this month.

Thanks to the solar flare and coronal mass ejection (CME) on December 7 – basically when the solar corona vigorously spews billions of tons of plasma along with a magnetic field that sends material towards Earth – the aurora borealis will appear in certain corners of the US this week.

The visual pleasure will extend further south than usual, and will be seen in or around cities like Boston and Chicago, as well as parts of Pennsylvania and the New York suburbs. Here’s what exactly caused this phenomenon and how to see it sweep across the sky next to you.

What Causes the Northern Lights?

In general, the northern lights are caused by violent storms on the surface of the sun. Charged particles from the Sun collide with the Earth’s atmosphere, resulting in vibrant greens and pinks, which are alternately referred to as the Northern Lights or Aurora Australis.

As EarthSky explains :

Severe storms on the sun send bursts of charged solar particles into space. If the Earth is in the path of the particle flow, the magnetic field and atmosphere of our planet react.

This event is more often observed in the most remote corners of the southern and northern hemispheres – hence the terms “northern lights” and “southern lights”. Occasionally, however, storms are strong enough to cascade arcs of radiant light to less distant locations, and this is what is happening this week across the vast US.

Storm this week

Monday’s solar eruption was very strong indeed and classified by NOAA’s Space Weather Center as a G3 geomagnetic storm. Of the various severity categories marked by the Geomagnetic Storm Index (G1-G5), G3 is strong enough to illuminate the skies over the Pacific Northwest, parts of the Midwest, and northeastern cities such as Boston and Providence, as well as areas around them. New York.

SWPC released the geomagnetic storm watch for December 9-11, according to the agency, and the strongest hits are being achieved tonight on G3 , according to the agency.

Except for the official map of the estimated course of the aurora borealis, you can refer to this screenshot from the Weather Channel to see how far the light show is expected to spread. As you can see, this is not dice for locations below a certain latitude.

How to see the northern lights

There are some general rules to help you see this event better , but remember that nature does not promise. Make sure you are as far north as possible and surround yourself with as much darkness as possible. Today’s show is expected to peak “within an hour or two before midnight,” SWPC scientist Rodney Virek told the Chicago Tribune, but there will still be a glimpse of it until then.

Virek also recommends looking for a higher platform to view the spectacle, such as the roof of a building. According to the Tribune, only truly northern places like Canada and Minnesota will see overhead lights; you are more likely to catch them on the horizon.

Another important note: if you miss today’s show, you are unlikely to ever get a chance to see the northern lights again. They are not as fleetingly rare as other celestial events such as the “kissing” of Jupiter and Saturn this month, which will not happen again in comparable timelines until 2080. But taking the risk of going out in the cold to witness the spectacle tonight is well worth it. anyway.

This story was updated on December 10 at 12:31 pm to correct an attribution error.

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