The northern lights are coming to several states this week. Here’s how to see them

The northern lights (aurora borealis) are predicted to be visible in several U.S. states this week due to strong geomagnetic storms.

What’s happening: The University of Alaska Fairbanks forecasts that the Kp-index, a measure of geomagnetic activity, will hit levels that typically generate noticeable auroras on Wednesday and Thursday.
* Geomagnetic storms are expected to make the aurora visible in parts of Washington, Idaho, Vermont, Wyoming, New Hampshire, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, Massachusetts, Maryland, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, and Maine.
* Visibility is predicted to be lower on the horizon in some cities, including Seattle, Des Moines, Chicago, Cleveland, Boston, and Halifax on Wednesday, while on Thursday, the aurora could be seen overhead in locations including Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Bay City, and on the horizon in regions such as Salem, Boise, Cheyenne, Lincoln, Indianapolis, and Annapolis.

The science behind the lights: During a geomagnetic storm triggered by sunspot activity, plasma and pieces of the sun’s magnetic field are projected into the atmosphere, known as Coronal Mass Ejections (CME).
* This process, along with the movement of electrons on Alfvén waves, leads to the creation of the aurora when these electrons collide with nitrogen and oxygen molecules in Earth’s upper atmosphere, causing them to emit light.

Viewing the Aurora: The best time to view the aurora, according to the Space Weather Prediction Center, is usually between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. local time.
* Special equipment is not needed to witness this natural phenomenon.

View original article on NPR

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