Solar storm on Thursday expected to make Northern Lights visible in 17 states

When a magnetic solar wind collides with the magnetic field of the Earth, the Northern Lights appear.

Skywatchers in 17 American states should get the chance to see the Northern Lights, the vibrant sky display that occurs when solar wind interacts with the atmosphere, thanks to a solar storm predicted for Thursday.

The northern lights, also known as aurora borealis, are most frequently observed in Alaska, Canada, and Scandinavia, but an 11-year solar cycle that will peak in 2024 is increasing their visibility in locations further south. Arizona witnessed the light displays three months ago, which marked the third significant geomagnetic storm since the start of the current solar cycle in 2019.

On Thursday, aurora activity is expected across Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Indiana, Maine, and Maryland, according to the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.

It has been predicted that Canada would experience auroras, including Vancouver.

According to the institute, light shows should be visible overhead in Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Helena, Montana, as well as low in the sky in Salem, Oregon, Boise, Idaho, Cheyenne, Wyoming, Annapolis, Maryland, and Indianapolis.

The optimum viewing hours are between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. local time, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center, and people should avoid city lights.

A magnetic solar wind collides with the magnetic field of the Earth and causes atoms in the upper atmosphere to light, resulting in the Northern Lights. The lights fluctuate in intensity and emerge unexpectedly.

On a scale of zero to nine, the geomagnetic index Kp classifies auroral activity, with zero denoting a low level of activity and nine denoting a bright and active region. Kp 6 has been predicted by the Geophysical Institute for the storm on Thursday.