You could have a better chance of seeing Northern Lights than usual. What to know

·2 min read

The northern lights, or aurora borealis, will be visible in more areas of the U.S. than usual this week, forecasts show.

The aurora borealis light show will be highly active on the night of Wednesday, Aug. 17 into the early hours of Thursday, Aug. 18, forecasts from the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks show.

In most areas, forecasts predict that prime viewing time will be between 11 p.m. EDT on Wednesday and 5 a.m. EDT on Thursday.

During peak viewing hours, the northern lights will be visible overhead in areas north of Portland, Oregon; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Lincoln, Nebraska; Springfield, Illinois; and New York City, New York, according to forecasts. The areas with overhead visibility are shaded in a green-white band on the map below.

The lights will be visible closer to the horizon as far south as: Carson City, Nevada; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; and Raleigh, North Carolina. The areas with horizon visibility fall between the green-white band and the green line on the map below.

The northern lights, or aurora borealis, will be visible in these areas of the U.S. on the night of Aug. 17 into the morning of Aug. 18, according to forecasts.
The northern lights, or aurora borealis, will be visible in these areas of the U.S. on the night of Aug. 17 into the morning of Aug. 18, according to forecasts.

To watch the aurora borealis, viewers need “just a healthy dose of enthusiasm,” not special equipment, the Canadian Space Agency said.

The best viewing takes place under clear skies in areas free of light pollution since city lights can obscure “low-intensity aurora,” the agency explained.

But why will the northern lights be visible in more areas than normal?

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is currently monitoring a “geomagnetic storm” on the sun’s surface, the agency said in an Aug. 16 statement. This storm – lasting from Aug. 17 to Aug. 19 – is a period of intense solar activity stemming from a coronal hole, or a cooler spot on the sun that generates fast solar wind. One of the results of this storm is more activity in the auroras, making them visible in areas farther away from the North and South poles, NOAA explained.

For those living in the southern U.S. and other areas outside of the northern lights viewing range, the AuroraMAX observatory in Northwest Canada livestreams the auroras every night from August to May, according to the Canadian Space Agency.

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