Northern Lights expected to be visible in 17 states Thursday

Skygazers in 17 American states will have the chance to catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights this Thursday. 

Also known as aurora borealis, Northern Lights are most often seen in Alaska, Canada, and Scandinavia. An 11-year solar cycle that’s expected to peak in 2024 is making the lights visible in places farther to the south. 

Northern Lights occur when a magnetic solar wind slams into the Earth’s magnetic field and causes atoms in the upper atmosphere to glow. 

Auroral activity is forecasted on Thursday in Alaska, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Indiana, Maine and Maryland. 

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Northern Lights

An aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights, is seen in the night sky in the early morning hours of Monday, April 24, 2023, near Washtucna, Wash.  (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Light displays are expected to be visible overhead in Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Helena, Montana, and low on the horizon in Salem, Oregon.; Boise, Idaho; Cheyenne, Wyoming; Annapolis, Maryland; and Indianapolis, according to the institute.

Those wanting to experience the spectacle should get away from city lights. Best viewing times are between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. local time, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center. 

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A geomagnetic index known as Kp ranks auroral activity on a scale from zero to nine, with zero being not very active and nine being bright and active. The Geophysical Institute has forecast Kp 6 for Thursday’s storm. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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