WEATHER

Missed the dazzling northern lights show? You might get another chance Saturday night

May 11, 2024, 1:42 PM | Updated: 2:19 pm

If you have photos of the northern lights in Utah, send them over to our AsYouSeeIt page for a chance to be featured on social media and TV!


(CNN) —A second chance to view the magnificent auroras from a series of solar flares and coronal mass ejections from the sun will arrive Saturday evening in case you missed the show the previous night.

Auroras might be seen as far south as Alabama later Saturday, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center. The best viewing will be across the Ohio River Valley through the Midwest and into the Pacific Northwest.

In general, it’s good to start looking during the time right after sunset. Weather, of course, is key, as cloud cover may limit the visibility of the aurora.

“Don’t worry about it because this is not like an eclipse. This is a multiday event,” CNN meteorologist Chad Myers said.

“It will be visible across most of North America, maybe not all the way down to the Gulf Coast, but it’ll be close.”

Cloudy conditions will persist from the Rockies into Texas and the northern Gulf Coast as well as much of the Northeast.

The Space Weather Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service, observed conditions of an extreme geomagnetic storm at 6:54 p.m. ET on Friday evening, reaching a level 5 out of 5 severity. The last time a solar storm of this magnitude reached Earth was in October 2003, resulting in power outages in Sweden and damaged power transformers in South Africa, according to the center.

Signs of a severe geomagnetic storm, or level 4, were first observed by scientists at the center at 12:37 p.m. ET, when a major disturbance was detected in Earth’s magnetic field. Previously, the center issued a geomagnetic storm watch on Thursday evening, the first such watch issued since January 2005.

But the forecast was upgraded after scientists observed G5, or extreme geomagnetic storm, conditions Friday evening.

As the sun nears the peak of activity in its 11-year cycle, known as solar maximum, later this year, researchers have observed increasingly intense solar flares erupting from the fiery orb.

Northern lights at Golden Spike Park. (KSL TV Viewer)

Increased solar activity causes auroras that dance around Earth’s poles, known as the northern lights, or aurora borealis, and southern lights, or aurora australis. When the energized particles from coronal mass ejections reach Earth’s magnetic field, they interact with gases in the atmosphere to create different colored light in the sky.

“Overnight, aurora were visible across much of the United States. Weather permitting, they may be visible again tonight,” the Space Weather Prediction Center said Saturday.

“The extreme geomagnetic storm continues and will persist through at least Sunday.”

The storm could affect the power grid as well as satellite and high-frequency radio communications. The Biden administration said it is monitoring the possibility of impacts.

“For me, it’s just like the April 8th total solar eclipse. It really brings the fact that we live on a planet that’s orbiting a star that’s in a galaxy to our front door. It brings it down to earth,” Dr. Hakeem Oluseyi, an astrophysicist, told CNN.

“If you ask me, I’d say a total solar eclipse is clearly number one. But next to a bright comet, aurorae are pretty amazing to see. And if you’re near the northern extremes or the southern extremes, we cannot just get the colors in the sky, but the actual undulating curtains of nebulosity. That’s pretty awesome. So the fact that that’s going to extend to more people around the world, that’s pretty cool.”

Bill Nye, the “Science Guy,” said: “Let’s celebrate this.”


The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2024 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

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Missed the dazzling northern lights show? You might get another chance Saturday night