Solar storm will make it easier to see an aurora in northern US Tuesday night

News
aurora borealis_1536666904678.jpg.jpg

Have you ever wanted to see auroras, the rippling lights that sometimes paint the heavens with unearthly blues or greens and make you feel like you’re in a van Gogh painting?

If you live in a northern U.S. state, Tuesday might be your chance.

Residents in some parts of at least 15 states across the country may be able to see the awe-inspiring phenomenon, The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said on Monday.

PHOTO: Expedition 52 Flight Engineer Jack Fischer of NASA photographed the glowing nighttime lights of an aurora from his vantage point in the International Space Stations cupola module on June 19, 2017. Part of the stations solar array is also visible.
Expedition 52 Flight Engineer Jack Fischer of NASA photographed the glowing nighttime lights of an aurora from his vantage point in the International Space Station’s cupola module on June 19, 2017. Part of the station’s solar array is also visible.more +

But, wait, some watchers will be luckier than others.

“The further north you are — say, upstate New York or upper Michigan — the more likely you are to see the aurora,” Rodney Viereck, a researcher with NOAA, told ABC News. “And you also need clear skies, because cloudy weather often blocks it.”

Another factor that could affect whether you get to see it is altitude.

“If you’re in a hilly area, it’s good to get up where you can see to the north because typically the aurora will be northward of you,” Viereck said. “And if you can see closer to the horizon then you have a much better chance of seeing the aurora when it’s off in the distance.”

PHOTO: The Northern Lights, as seen in the sky over Alaska the night of Feb. 16, 2017, from the Poker Flat Research Range north of Fairbanks.
The Northern Lights, as seen in the sky over Alaska the night of Feb. 16, 2017, from the Poker Flat Research Range north of Fairbanks.more +

The states that will be able to see the aurora Tuesday are within a horizontal band that spans the globe, where a geomagnetic storm — a disturbance in the space between the sun and the earth that affects earth’s magnetic field — will hit.

Intense storms can disrupt navigation systems and mess with radio and GPS signals, according to NOAA’s website.

PHOTO: The Aurora Borealis appears in the sky on Jan. 8, 2017 near Ester Dome mountain about 10 miles west of Fairbanks, Alaska.
The Aurora Borealis appears in the sky on Jan. 8, 2017 near Ester Dome mountain about 10 miles west of Fairbanks, Alaska.

So should you worry? Not much. Tuesday’s storm is of a moderate G2 level (on a scale of G1 to G5), said Viereck. You can even try and capture the aurora on camera.

“The digital cameras that are available today are very very capable and can often pick up an aurora that the human eye can’t see,” he said.

So, good luck, aurora-watchers. Keep your lenses and your climbing gear ready and may the geomagnetic force be with you.

PHOTO: Wade Kitner looks at the northern lights as he fishes in Ventura, Iowa, June 23, 2015.
Wade Kitner looks at the northern lights as he fishes in Ventura, Iowa, June 23, 2015.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Trending Stories

Don't Miss

More Don't Miss