How To See A Rare Opportunity To See The Northern Lights Over The Delaware Valley Thursday Night – CBS Philly

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A powerful geomagnetic storm to hit Earth Thursday could lead to dazzling displays of the aurora borealis, or northern lights, unusually far south in the United States.

Skywatchers in the Delaware Valley have an extremely rare opportunity, for our latitude, to witness the beautiful atmospheric phenomenon overhead from Thursday evening through early Friday morning.

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The Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ aurora forecast indicates that the northern half of the region has the potential to witness dancing ribbons of violet, green, red and/or blue light overhead and the southern half of the area hold a shot to check out the spectacular sight near the horizon.

The thick, green band indicates where you can observe the Northern Lights overhead. North of the thin, green line, the aurora may appear near the horizon.

(Credit: The University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute)

The aurora borealis forms when charged particles emitted from the sun travel through a solar wind to visit Earth’s magnetic field.

A large-scale burst of solar wind is called a coronal mass ejection, or CME. The occurrence of a CME can increase the likelihood of aurora formation by supplying an abundance of solar particles to the Earth’s magnetic field.

These particles then travel to the poles, where they collide with atoms in the Earth’s upper atmosphere to cause dramatic light shows. This interaction is called a geomagnetic storm.

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NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center has issued a G3 (Strong) geomagnetic storm watch in effect for Thursday in response to not one but two CMEs that erupted from the sun Monday.

The color of the aurora is related to the type of atmospheric atoms the solar particles collide with and the height at which the collision occurs.

Green aurora colors are the result of oxygen atoms up to 240 kilometers altitude, red is a product of oxygen above 240 kilometers, blue is the result of nitrogen atoms up to 60 kilometers and violet comes from nitrogen above 100 kilometers.

The most likely time of possible formation of the Northern Lights is between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m., but the chance to see coincides with all hours of nighttime darkness.

Viewing is optimal on a moonless night and luckily for us, the moon will only be illuminated by 1% or a tiny crescent on Thursday night.

Not so lucky for us, we’ll see some cloudiness Thursday evening due to severe thunderstorms, but a period of partial clearing looks possible after midnight.

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Finally, for your best chance of being enchanted, choose an observation location away from distracting city lights. Have fun spotting!

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