Northern Lights seen near Canyon, Minnesota on August 30, 2019. Brian Peterson/Star Tribune via Getty Images
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This week, US states as far south as Kansas will get a chance to catch a glimpse of the brilliant Aurora Borealis – known as the ‘Northern Lights’ – when a solar storm dips far enough south to be seen in cities like Seattle and Boisé.
The vibrant, multicolored light show, created when the solar wind collides with the Earth’s atmosphere, is part of a solar cycle which began in 2019 and is expected to peak next year, the Associated Press reported.
According to University of Fairbanks‘ Geophysical Institute, Thursday’s aurora display could be seen in parts of states including Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nebraska, North and South Dakota, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine.
Any reading of Kp or planetary index above a five – the scale goes from zero to nine – is considered a geomagnetic storm. The Geophysical Institute predicted Thursday’s display would register as a six.
The term “northern Lightscomes from the Latin “aurora,” meaning “dawn,” and “borealis,” meaning “north,” Earth.com reported.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Space Weather Prediction CenterThe ideal viewing times for this week’s Northern Lights viewing are from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. local time.
“The aurora does not need to be directly overhead but can be seen up to 1,000 km away when the aurora is bright and conditions are right,” according to the Space Weather Prediction Center. . “It’s the only way for most people to experience space weather.”
In late April of this year, a major geomagnetic storm brought spectacular light shows as far south as Arizona, Iowa and North Dakota.
The sun’s turbulent activity can sometimes be strong enough to tug on our planet’s magnetic field, but then it pulls back, creating what is called Waves of Alfvén about 80,000 miles, NPR reported. When electrons attach to a wave, they rush towards Earth at speeds of up to 45 million miles per hour.
“Think surfing,” said Jim Schroeder, assistant professor of physics at Wheaton College, as reported by NPR. “To surf, you have to row at the right speed for a ocean wave to pick you up and speed you up, and we found that the electrons were surfing.
You won’t need binoculars to see this week’s Northern Lights, but a less light-polluted location at a higher elevation is best. Although they are called the Northern Lights, these dazzling lights are visible from all directions.