NewsNational News


Northern lights observed and could continue into the weekend

A coronal hole high-speed stream caused the northern lights to be visible in parts of the U.S., but could cause some issues with the power grid.
Northern lights observed and could continue into the weekend
Posted at 11:41 AM, Mar 24, 2023

An aurora Borealis was observed in northern sections of the U.S. late Thursday after the Space Weather Prediction Center issued a geomagnetic storm watch for the upcoming weekend. 

The watch is in effect through Saturday but is expected to peak on Friday. At its peak, it is expected to be a G2 solar storm on Friday. At that level, the northern lights could be seen as far south as New York and Idaho. 

The solar storm is expected to be at a G1 level on Saturday, meaning the aurora could be seen as far south as northern Michigan and Maine. 

The aurora was seen directly over parts of Michigan, north of Lansing. 

A G2 solar storm could cause high-latitude power systems to experience voltage alarms, as long-duration storms may cause transformer damage. At the G1 level, weak power grid fluctuations could occur, the Space Weather Prediction Center said.

SEE MORE: 'Absolutely unreal': Astronaut witnesses aurora from space

The watch was prompted due to a coronal hole high-speed stream. The aurora could also be influenced by a coronal mass ejection event earlier in the week. 

The Space Weather Prediction Center said these coronal holes can happen at any time but are most frequent when the sun is at its lowest cycle.

Auroras are caused by the solar wind interacting with Earth’s magnetic field. These auroras tend to navigate around the Earth’s magnetic poles.

“The solar wind particles funnel around to the long tail of the magnetosphere, where they become trapped,” NASA said. “When magnetic reconnection occurs, the particles are accelerated toward Earth’s poles. Along the way, particles can collide with atoms and molecules in Earth’s upper atmosphere, an interaction that provides the atoms with extra energy, which is released as a burst of light. These interactions continue at lower and lower altitudes until all the incoming energy is lost. When we see the glowing aurora, we are watching a billion individual collisions, lighting up the magnetic field lines of Earth.”