Peak Northern Lights season may be coming to an end, but it’s definitely not too late to see auroras this year. And on Wednesday evening, the phenomenon will even be visible over parts of North America, which means you could check that item off your bucket list sooner than you thought.
While an aurora viewing in the US is rare, there are a handful of nights each year when you can catch them right in your own backyard. Well, kind of.
What wonderful mix of universal magic has to be conjured to see the aurora borealis? To start, you’ll need a geomagnetic storm — and it has to be one of a specific strength. 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 Feb. 27 until approximately 10pm the same evening.
3-Day Forecast Issued 2019 Feb 27 1230 UTC: The greatest expected 3 hr Kp for Feb 27-Mar 01 2019 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) February 27, 2019
The range of visibility depends on the strength of the storm, which is measured by the “KP Number” on a scale of one to nine. 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 forecast video to see if you’ll be able to spot the lights from where you are in the country.
It’s possible that the Northern Lights will be visible in parts of Alaska, and as far south as Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Maine and even northern New York, Vermont and New Hampshire. Most of Canada’s territories, with the exception of British Columbia, could also be treated to an aurora show tonight.
If you happen to be flying over these areas late Tuesday afternoon into the evening, 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 a westbound, overnight transatlantic flight (many pilots will even point it out if the auroras comes into sight).
And if you see it, don’t forget to snap a photograph 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.
Feature image by bookguy / Getty Images.