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Northern Lights season is officially here, and that means it’s time to see the incredible phenomenon and check it off your bucket list.
While you might typically spot the lights dancing across the Icelandic night sky, or shining above Svalbard, there are a handful of nights each year when you can catch the aurora right here in the United States.
An aurora viewing in the US is rare, but it’s much more likely during geomagnetic storms. These storms generate solar winds that interact with particles in the Earth’s atmosphere, causing them to glow. This makes the Northern Lights visible in places where they might not normally be seen.
This week, According to the Space Weather Prediction Center, a geomagnetic storm — measured at a G1, or a minor storm — is expected from 4pm on Friday, Nov. 9 through the early morning hours of Saturday, Nov. 10.
3-Day Forecast Issued 2018 Nov 08 1230 UTC: The greatest expected 3 hr Kp for Nov 08-Nov 10 2018 is 5 (NOAA Scale G1). S1 or greater: 1%, 1%, 1%. R1-R2: 1%, 1%, 1%. R3 or greater: 1%, 1%, 1%. https://t.co/gPw8AeBd9u
— NOAA Space Weather (@NWSSWPC) November 8, 2018
The range of visibility depends on the strength of the storm, which is measured by the “KP Number” on a scale of 1 to 9. This storm is expected to reach KP-5. This number is key because it also helps you determine where in the US you can catch a glimpse. Check out the chart below to see if you’ll be able to spot the lights from where you are in the country.
After analyzing the chart above, it looks like the Northern Lights will be most visible to those in Alaska, Montana, Iowa, South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Washington, Wisconsin, Michigan, northern Maine and potentially parts of northern New York. Canada’s southernmost territories may also be treated to an aurora show.
If you happen to be flying through that area late on Friday into Saturday, you might want to switch to a window seat because there’s a good chance you can catch the Northern Lights from the sky. A number of transatlantic routes pass through the expected path, as well as flights from East Asia to the northeastern US. Your best chance, however, is on an eastbound overnight transatlantic flight — many pilots will point it out if the aurora comes into sight. And if you see it, don’t forget to snap a pic and send it to us. We love to feature reader shots on our Instagram account.
Flyers can check FlightAware.com to see the anticipated route for their flight and choose seats on the correct side of the plane for optimal viewing, though it’s important to note that flight paths can change at any point before or during a flight.
Featured image by @jprudder1 via Twenty20.
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