General Space News United States Weather

17 States in US Could See Aurora Borealis

Photo from NOAA

Residents in at least 17 states could see a once-in-a-life summer night sky show. Residents in parts of Alaska, Idaho, Indiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming may be able to glimpse the piebald sky, according to the Geophysical Institute.

According to NOAA, the Aurora Borealis will be seen in many places not only from the North Pole, and from the South Pole. Aurora Australis can be seen in areas that are free of light pollution with fair skies on July 12 to July 13 after sunset to before sunrise in the visible areas.

According to, Astrophysicist Don Hampton says only a few satellites and instruments collect data on solar wind flow and direction, which dictate where and when the northern lights might crop up. They may accurately measure solar wind as it careens from the sun, but there’s no guarantee it will end up where the models predict.

“While large solar storms can be seen leaving the vicinity of the sun, and their direction and speed can be estimated, once they leave the local solar vicinity, they cannot be tracked,” Hampton says. “During this time, the solar storms can be slightly diverted or even reduced, and the final impact on Earth’s magnetic field may be different than predicted.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center recommends areas free of light pollution as the best viewing spots. It also says that 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. local time makes for optimal sky-watching.

The Geophysical Institute scales auroral activity with the Kp index or planetary index. This scale ranges from zero (not very active) to nine (bright and active), and Thursday received a solid Kp6. The Institute says that late Wednesday, the storm will be visible from city horizons like Seattle, Chicago, Cleveland, and Boston (clear skies pending). Then, on Thursday, cities like Minneapolis, Boise, and Annapolis will get a peak.

Hampton says large solar storms can potentially affect power grids and pipelines as the large currents have the potential to disrupt power. “This is why NOAA produces the predictions. So that operators can take steps to mitigate potential issues.”

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