Where the northern lights will be visible thanks to the solar flare from Mashable

Amid its period of peak activity, the sun is launching electromagnetic bombs at Earth, and all you can think of is gazing up at the northern lights? Good. You have your priorities in order, because nothing bad is likely to happen despite the recent solar flare eruptions. Here’s how to enjoy the show:

According to NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center a “Geomagnetic Storm Watch” is in effect for Saturday, May 11. That means unless you normally wake up at about 1:00 a.m., staying up Friday, May 10 will be the best to way to see the local results of the sun’s recent strong flares. On the night of May 11 and early morning of May 12, aurora conditions will be less favorable.


Credit: NOAA

Auroras will potentially be visible at latitudes so far south that residents of Alabama and California may be able to catch a rare glimpse of the northern lights if they play their cards right and the weather permits.

If you’re in Alaska, you probably already know the deal. But if you’re seizing your golden opportunity as a resident of a warmer locale, the best way to ensure you don’t come away empty-handed is to find a location away from city lights — or even suburban lights — with an unobstructed view of the horizon to your north.

What parts of the U.S. can see the auroras tonight?


Credit: NOAA

According to NOAA’s current earth-weather forecasts, among the states where NOAA’s map of aurora viewing conditions says viewing is possible, weather conditions look favorable in:

Washington

Oregon

Idaho

Montana

Wyoming

The Dakotas

Possibly Nebraska,

Minnesota

Wisconsin

Illinois

Iowa

Pretty much all of New England

Weather conditions look less favorable in:

The northernmost tip of Utah

Michigan

Ohio

Appalachian Pennsylvania

The panhandle of West Virginia

Upstate New York

…and Maine

But never let the clouds stop you from at least glancing up in the hopes of seeing something good. Furthermore, this solar storm is a real rarity, so if you’re a little further south, like in Northern California or Northern Missouri and you’re hoping for a once-in-a-lifetime chance of seeing these lights in the lower latitudes, now is your chance to try.

What are the northern lights anyway?

The auroras (aurora borealis in the northern hemisphere, and aurora australis in the southern hemisphere) are the visual evidence of charged particles that flow toward us in what’s known as the solar wind — in this case a “severe” solar storm — colliding with the particles in the Earth’s magnetic field such as oxygen atoms. The glowing display itself is occurring not in space, but in Earth’s upper atmosphere.

They will often look, at first, like a whitish glow hanging over the northern horizon, but with any luck they will then turn into technicolor, wobbling rays of light that can seem to waft or stretch. Most displays will contain green. Stronger storms will contain red shades, and blues, pinks, and purples are also possible.