Will you be able to see the Northern Lights this weekend?

Magnetic energy had accumulated in the sun this week like a twisted rubber band in a corkscrew. Thursday morning, the elastic broke, and the accumulated energy was released as a solar flare, ejecting around a billion tons of plasma gas that could result in the dazzling display known as the Northern Lights once it reaches Earth this weekend.

But will it even be visible on Saturday night or early Sunday morning?

“If I was in the northern part of the United States, then I would look at the sky”, Howard J. Singer, chief scientist for the National Weather Service’s Space Weather Prediction Center, said in an interview on Saturday.

The prediction center issued a geomagnetic storm watch On Friday, that said the storm could drive the Northern Lights, the scientific name for the Northern Lights, over Washington state, the upper Midwest and the Northeast on Saturday. The storm was rated G3 on a scale from G1 to G5. It shouldn’t cause technological disruption, the center said.

“Typically, when we reach this level, we will see the Northern Lights in the northern states”, Guillaume Murtaghthe Space Weather Prediction Center’s program coordinator said in an interview.

But there are unknowns associated with any magnetic storm, especially the exact time of its arrival. The great expulsion of plasma from the sun, called coronal mass ejection, travels through space at about a million to six million miles an hour. With Earth about 92 million kilometers from the sun, the path for ejected particles is short, sometimes as short as 15 hours or as long as four days, Dr Murtagh said.

“This one is pretty quick,” Mr Murtagh said on Saturday. “We are expecting it today, so it will be a little over 50 hours of transit.”

However, because the ejected particles are so far apart, scientists are unable to predict the exact moment. But if the particles arrive on Earth during the day, there will be no light show, experts said. The same is true if you live in a city with high light pollution or in an area with cloudy weather.

But if it’s dark, the skies are clear, and light pollution is low, there’s a good chance people will see the Northern Lights, experts said.

The Prediction Center can give people about a 30 minute alert before the lights are visible because its Deep Space Climate Observatory Satellite detects the tons of particles that rush while they are still between the sun and the earth.

Mr Murtagh said residents could monitor the social media accounts and website for status updates throughout the night.

When the magnetic storm hits Earth, the colored curtains of purple and green – if they materialize – will be the result of the Sun’s magnetic projectile interacting with the planet’s magnetic field, and “the way it does. couples with Earth’s magnetic field will dictate how strong the storm is, ”Mr. Murtagh said.

The stronger the storm, the more likely it is that areas in lower latitudes will see the Northern Lights, experts said. This weekend’s magnetic storm could appear in areas near cities such as New York, Chicago, Boise, Idaho and Salem, Oregon. The lights typically last for several hours and could be visible all night, Mr Murtagh said.

In 1859, a solar super storm caused northern lights visible near tropical latitudes in places like Cuba and El Salvador. In 2011, the Northern Lights were sighted as far south as Alabama.

Meteorologists across the country were already telling residents that they couldn’t see the lights Where advise those traveling north to contemplate the sky at night.

An inhabitant of Des Moines had already prepared Saturday afternoon to see the spectacle in the sky.

“I’m going to go to an area of ​​dark sky, north of town, then sit down and wait,” Brennan Jontz, 28, who is part of the Iowa Storm Chaser Network on Facebook, said in an interview. ” You have to be patient ; that’s the name of the game with the Northern Lights.

He will bring a lawn chair, he said. He will head for the cornfields, away from the city lights, and enter somewhere on a gravel road. Then he’ll sit down, take out his camera, and wait until he’s lit up again.

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