Map Shows Large Swaths of US Could Catch Rare Glimpse of Northern Lights the Next 3 Nights


Residents of some northern states in the lower 48 might get a rare chance to view a rare phenomenon generally reserved for those who live in or near the tundra.

The northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis, could be visible in many northern states this week.

In Ohio, the National Weather Service of Cleveland reported the geomagnetic storm could dazzle Buckeye State residents on Thursday.

“So there is a lot of buzz about potential #SolarStorm heading our way. The SWPC issued a G3 Geomagnetic Storm Watch for Thursday, Dec 10th. Yellow line on the map shows the furthest southward potential for the #NorthernLights could be observed,” NWS Cleveland tweeted.

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That yellow line will swing through Washington state, Iowa and on through to New England.

Chicagoans might get a glimpse, as could residents of Detroit and even many in Massachusetts.

Have you ever seen the Northern Lights?

WKOW-TV meteorologist Max Tsaparis in Madison, Wisconsin, shared a map of which states might have an overhead view of the lights, versus those that will still possibly see them on the horizon.

“Look up tonight! A coronal ejection from the sun is heading towards earth tonight which may cause the #NorthernLights to be visible,” Tsaparis tweeted Wednesday.

The Boston Globe tweeted that those hoping to see the lights should escape to a dark area.

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Bring Me The News of Minnesota attributed the rare chance for a glimpse of the aurora for those lower in the continental U.S. to “a powerful eruption on the sun’s surface that faces Earth, launching a coronal mass ejection (CME) right toward us.”

The viewing area is essentially a geomagnetic storm watch.

KMSP-TV meteorologist Jennifer McDermed tweeted that the potential for the northern lights to be visible for viewers in Minneapolis could last until Friday.

“Geomagnetic storm watches are in effect through December 11th! What does this mean? LOOK NORTH. Get away from city lights. Pray the clouds break. And look for the northern lights! #Auroraborealis,” McDermed wrote.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration states that the northern lights are “the result of electrons colliding with the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere.”

“The electrons are energized through acceleration processes in the downwind tail (night side) of the magnetosphere and at lower altitudes along auroral field lines. The accelerated electrons follow the magnetic field of Earth down to the Polar Regions where they collide with oxygen and nitrogen atoms and molecules in Earth’s upper atmosphere,” the NOAA website explains.

“In these collisions, the electrons transfer their energy to the atmosphere thus exciting the atoms and molecules to higher energy states. When they relax back down to lower energy states, they release their energy in the form of light. This is similar to how a neon light works. The aurora typically forms 80 to 500 km above Earth’s surface.”

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Johnathan Jones has worked as a reporter, an editor, and producer in radio, television and digital media.
Johnathan "Kipp" Jones has worked as an editor and producer in radio and television. He is a proud husband and father.