(NEW YORK) — Stargazers in parts of the United States may be lucky enough to see the northern lights Saturday, thanks to a strong geomagnetic storm.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center issued a geomagnetic storm watch for Saturday and Sunday, following a “significant” solar flare on the sun two days ago that released a coronal mass ejection.
The coronal mass ejection — a large expulsion of plasma and magnetic field from the sun’s corona — is expected to reach Earth Saturday evening, with effects continuing into Sunday, NOAA said.
What that means for people on Earth is the chance to see the spectacular light display across the northern United States, in states as far south as Illinois — if clouds and light pollution don’t get in the way.
The strength of the storm “has the potential to drive the aurora further away from its normal polar residence and if other factors come together, the aurora might be seen over the far Northeast, to the upper Midwest, and over the state of Washington,” the Space Weather Prediction Center said.
The aurora may be visible late Saturday afternoon and into early Sunday, according to the National Weather Service.
The peak is predicted around 5 p.m. ET, according to planetary space scientist James O’Donoghue.
“You’ll want to look north, near to the horizon,” O’Donoghue tweeted Saturday. “Also, befriend your local weather reporter and ask for clear skies.”
“Good luck aurora hunters!” he added.
The storm is rated G3, on NOAA’s five-level geomagnetic storm scale. “Impacts to our technology from a G3 storm are generally nominal,” the Space Weather Prediction Center said.
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