Geomagnetic Storm could bring the Northern Lights into our region Saturday Night – but…

Regional News

FILE – In this Wednesday, March 1, 2017 file photo, the Northern Lights, or aurora borealis, appear in the sky over Bifrost, Western Iceland. Police in Iceland say tourists are often putting themselves at risk searching for the Northern Lights, whose spectacular streaks of color light up the winter skies at night. Police say sleep-deprived tourists are dividing their attentions between the road and the sky, and often underestimate the challenging conditions posed by Iceland’s twisty, narrow, often-icy roads in the winter. (AP Photo/Rene Rossignaud, file)

ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) – How many times can you say you’ve seen the Northern Lights in person?

Most of us, probably never.

However, thanks to a significant solar flare combined with a Coronal Mass Ejection from the sun that took place on Thursday, all of Canada and the northern third of the country will have a chance to see some spectacular visuals in the form of the Aurora Borealis, aka. “The Northern Lights.”

The Space Weather Prediction Center, yes, that’s a real thing, says that Saturday and Sunday, we are under a Strong Geomagnetic Storm Watch.

Solar flares consist of large eruptions of electromagnetic radiation from the Sun. They can normally last minutes to hours. The energy emitted from a solar flare travels at the speed of light which means that any effect upon the sunlit side of Earth’s exposed outer atmosphere occurs at the same time the event is observed.

FILE – This Monday, Jan. 12, 2015 photo provided by NASA shows the first notable solar flare of 2015, as observed from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory. On Friday, July 16, 2021, The Associated Press reported on stories circulating online incorrectly asserting a solar storm is heading toward Earth and could impact cell phone signals and cause blackouts. But Alex Young, solar physicist at NASA, says a July 3 solar flare did interfere with some high frequency communication, but the impact was less than it could have been. “This was really very slow and it was not fully directed at Earth,” Young said. “We don’t have any expectation of seeing any impact on Earth.” (AP Photo/NASA, File)

Coronal Mass Ejections are large explosions of plasma and magnetic field from the sun’s corona and can eject billions of tons of coronal material along with an embedded magnetic field that is stronger than the background solar wind interplanetary magnetic field strength.

(Images courtesy of NASA and the SOHO and STEREO missions via the Space Weather Prediction Center).

While all of this sounds out of this world, what can be produced from such an event is something that, when in the perfect area, given the perfect conditions, can be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Much of the northern tier of the United States, as well as Canada, will have the chance to see the northern lights.

Further south, that risk dwindles a bit as visuals would be much closer to the horizon.

So, as long as the weather is clear, the map above will tell you where to look.

Unfortunately, for us, we’ve got plenty of clouds in place which will obstruct any view of the Northern Lights.

If you’re lucky enough to find a clear spot, be sure you’re looking toward the northern horizon and be sure you’re away from city lights for the best viewing.

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