Thursday, January 9, 2014

Gazing to the Skies: Northern Lights

For a group of people as cold as mid-westerners have been over the past few days, the sight of the Aurora Borealis will be one for sore eyes. 

The dazzling lights are typically only viewable by an audience much farther north, but on the lucky occasion, they appear farther south. That will happen Thursday night for parts of Michigan and Ohio, weather permitting. 

Also known as the Northern Lights, this other-worldly glow is caused by a strong coronal mass ejection... a solar flare! Tuesday, a massive solar flare erupted from the sun from one of the largest sunspot groups of the star's surface in 10 years, according to NASA. The radiation and electrically charged particles sent from the sun's surface into the earth's atmosphere cause the Northern Lights. 

Tuesday's Coronal Mass Ejection sends particles hurting towards the Earth's atmosphere

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center, the sun's coronal mass ejection is "forecast to set off G3 (strong) Geomagnetic Storm activity." The good news? The particles are not harmful, though they can cause interference for satellites and GPS devices.

Unfortunately, cloudy skies tonight may prohibit easy viewing of the Lights. Flurries and partly to mostly cloudy skies are in the forecast, so we'll have to look closely and find a break in the clouds to enjoy the spectacle.

Forecast: Thursday Night 1/9-1/10

The range in color all depends on the type of gas-to-gas collision that is happening as the sun's energy enters the earth's multi-chemical atmosphere. The most common to see are green, yellow, and blue. Reds and pinks are the rarest colors.