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Celestial Show: Northern Lights Expected to Illuminate Skies Across the United States



Stargazers across the United States are in for a treat this weekend, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration‘s Space Weather Prediction Center has forecasted a potential severe geomagnetic storm set to dazzle the skies beginning Friday evening.

When a coronal mass ejection from the sun reaches Earth, it can trigger a geomagnetic storm, which in turn may lead to a breathtaking display of the aurora borealis, commonly known as the northern lights, visible to people nationwide.

According to predictions, the geomagnetic storm could reach G4 levels on NOAA’s Space Weather Scales, indicating a severe event starting Friday evening and continuing through Saturday. This means that the northern lights might be visible as far south as Alabama and northern California, providing a rare sighting for these regions.

For eager viewers in Iowa, the Space Weather Prediction Center suggests that Friday night offers a stronger chance of witnessing the aurora. Clear skies are essential for optimal viewing, with Saturday night projected to be mostly clear in Des Moines, Ames, and Iowa City, allowing for a potentially vivid display.

To enhance the viewing experience, experts recommend traveling to areas with minimal light pollution and venturing out between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m., historically the best times to observe the aurora borealis in all its glory.

As the geomagnetic storm unfolds, it is crucial to note that the event is a significant disturbance to Earth’s magnetosphere, impacting power systems, spacecraft operations, and more. Stay tuned to the latest updates on the storm on the Space Weather Prediction Center’s website for real-time information.

These frequent sightings in atypical regions are attributed to the ongoing solar maximum, a period when solar activity peaks. Scientists like Doyle Rice from USA TODAY have pointed out the sun’s increased activity leading to more solar storms, resulting in greater occurrences of solar flares and coronal mass ejections that, when interacting with Earth’s magnetic field, create the mesmerizing auroras seen across the country.

Rachel Adams

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