How to see the Northern Lights from Thursday to Friday. – NBC Boston

How to see the Northern Lights from Thursday to Friday.  – NBC Boston

The northern lights, scientifically called the aurora borealis, are a mesmerizing sight in the night sky and may be visible all night in parts of New England.

Sparked by solar storms, these colorful displays are caused by interactions between charged particles emitted by the Sun and Earth’s atmosphere, especially oxygen and nitrogen.

Before dawn Friday, New England will be swinging at the sight of the lights. It will become visible at far northern latitudes by late Thursday evening, but the lights will peak in high mid-latitudes between midnight and 4 a.m. on Friday.

The lights will illuminate late Thursday at moderate geomagnetic storm strength Kp6 or G2, and will increase to strong geomagnetic storm strength K7 or G3 after midnight. Although there will be some clouds, it should not hinder you from seeing the lights, as the clouds will not be very dense yet.

A graph showing how far south the northern lights are visible in the United States depending on the strength of the geomagnetic storm. Overnight from Thursday, November 30, 2023, to Friday, December 1, 2023, a strong storm may cause lights to appear in parts of New England, possibly as far south as Massachusetts.

If you think the northern lights have been more visible in New England than usual lately, you’re right!

Understanding the sun’s cycle is crucial to learning about the aurora borealis. The Sun, a huge orbit of burning gases, acts and reacts in an 11- to 15-year cycle. This begins and ends with low activity and peaks in the middle, when the Sun’s surface is most active.

During active phases, characterized by increasing sunspots, temperature differences between cool sunspots and the Sun’s fiery surface trigger interactions such as solar flares and geomagnetic storms for the Sun to maintain equilibrium, or an equal temperature, along the surface. These events generate stronger solar winds that push charged ions toward Earth.

A drawing showing how sunlight produces the northern lights.

Upon reaching Earth, the magnetosphere protects the planet from most charged particles, except for those near the poles. When these solar ions enter near the poles and interact with atmospheric gases, they emit colored light, creating the northern lights.

A drawing showing how sunlight produces the northern lights.

The stronger the solar wind, the brighter the colors, and the farther south (in the Northern Hemisphere) the lights extend.

The Sun is currently approaching maximum activity. Mid-2024 is expected to be the peak of activity in the current cycle.

So, yes, we are seeing increased aurora activity. Notably, in April 2023, a powerful geomagnetic storm brought visible auroras to the south-central United States, a rare but not unprecedented event. Historically, the northern lights appeared as far south as Honolulu, in the late 1800s.

Bloomington, Indiana, USA – 04/24/2023: The Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) can be seen from North Bottom Road in Bloomington, Indiana. (Photo by Jeremy Hogan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

A solar storm has caused aurora borealis in at least 30 states.

As we approach the peak of the current solar cycle, expect amplified aurora activity through 2025. Best viewing is from September to March after increased geomagnetic activity.

Don’t trust seven-day geomagnetic forecasts, they are more of a “nowcast” type day.

The northern part of the United States sees the most vibrant colors, including Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire. Be sure to watch under dark skies with minimal moonlight.

After 2025, the next solar maximum will occur between 2036 and 2041.

The northern lights, also called the aurora borealis, are moving waves of lights seen in the night sky.

(Tags for translation) Aurora Borealis

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