A Sunday solar flare means that the Aurora Borealis might be visible in parts of the U.S. and Canada on Wednesday, May 10, 2023, and into Thursday, weather officials said.
The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration Space Weather Prediction Center raised geomagnetic storm watches for Wednesday and Thursday. The solar flare was associated with a partial coronal mass ejection, which is a large expulsion of plasma and magnetic field lines from the Sun's corona — the outermost part of its atmosphere. If the CME arrives as anticipated, G2, or moderate, storm conditions are expected Wednesday with G1, or minor, conditions Thursday.
Solar flares can cause radio blackouts, according to the NOAA.
The geomagnetic activity is also likely to make the northern lights visible. According to the NOAA, the aurora may be visible in the northern tier of the U.S., such as northern Michigan and Maine, on Wednesday night. It may also be seen as low as New York, Wisconsin, and Washington. The lights may also be seen in Alaska and parts of Canada.
There have been several spectacular displays in Montana skies in recent months:
For the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights, head to a place with low light pollution and clear skies and look to the north. The NOAA has a nightly forecast for the lights. Experts say space weather is tricky to forecast, so there are no guarantees.
Astronomy fans could start seeing the Northern Lights more often than usual going forward, NOAA space scientist Rob Steenburgh said in April. Sun activity is expected to steadily increase, which means more opportunities to see the aurora.
A new solar cycle began late in 2019, according to NASA. New cycles happen about every 11 years when the Sun flips its magnetic poles. The current cycle, Solar Cycle 25, is expected to be most active in mid-2024.
If you want to share your photos of the Aurora Borealis, send them to email@example.com, or upload them by clicking here.
Two good resources for knowing when the Aurora Borealis might be visible in our area are the Space Weather Prediction Center and Soft Serve News.