Northern Lights predicted to grace southern B.C. skies this weekend, as province on path of geomagnetic storm

·2 min read
The northern lights are seen from Vancouver over the North Shore Mountains on Oct. 11, 2021. (Submitted by Liron Gertsman Photography - image credit)
The northern lights are seen from Vancouver over the North Shore Mountains on Oct. 11, 2021. (Submitted by Liron Gertsman Photography - image credit)

The Northern Lights could put on another dreamy show in the skies across British Columbia this weekend — and nature fans and photographers alike are hoping to catch another mesmerizing glimpse of the phenomenon after it made an appearance earlier this month.

A strong geomagnetic storm watch is in effect for Oct. 30 to 31 by the U.S.-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

"The sun has been quite active lately and yesterday a sunspot gave way to a solar flare that led to a coronal mass ejection headed our way," said CBC Meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe.

"If the surge of plasma gets to our magnetic field then that's the recipe for northern lights. As the electrons and particles interact, they can create the beautiful greens and purples in the night sky."

When the coronal mass ejection approaches Earth, the U.S. federal agency's DSCOVR satellite will be among the first spacecraft to detect the real-time solar wind changes and will issue any appropriate warnings.

The University of Alaska's North America forecast for the phenomenon indicates it could be seen in parts of B.C., including Metro Vancouver, over the weekend.

University of Alaska Geophysical Insitute
University of Alaska Geophysical Insitute

Because the earth is spinning, and the plasma from the sun takes about two days to get to us, there is still uncertainty in the forecast, Wagstaffe said.

Submitted by Liron Gertsman Photography
Submitted by Liron Gertsman Photography

Photographers get ready

Astrophotographer Liron Gertsman is among those who spent the previous aurora borealis event scanning the skies and snapping sweeping photographs.

"What was really special about a couple of weeks ago, and these northern lights that occasionally happen over Vancouver, is that we're seeing them in a familiar context," he said. "It's a very rare and special and unique opportunity."

Gertsman says he'll spend the night monitoring forecasts, which he says often give a 30-minute warning before the Northern Lights become visible.

Submitted by Diego Rebello
Submitted by Diego Rebello

"You can kind of relax at home before the show is about to happen," he said.

He says his hope is to get a shot of the glow over the top of the North Shore mountains, even if he has to stay up late.

"If the show is good, it's absolutely worth it."

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