On Wednesday evening, thanks to a very powerful sun storm, folks living as far south as Ohio and Indiana will likely catch an exceedingly rare glimpse of the Northern Lights.
As Space.com explained, on Labor Day the sun “blasted out a huge cloud of superheated plasma known as a coronal mass ejection (CME).” The CME, which is harmless to humans, is expected to reach Earth overnight on Wednesday, as it is traveling at the breakneck speed of about 200 miles per second. When it does reach our atmosphere it will trigger an incredibly strong “geomagnetic storm,” which happens to cause the Earth’s auroras to light up.
The strong auroras are likely to last through Thursday morning and will extend from Washington and Idaho in the west to Indiana and Ohio in the midwest and will even show up throughout New England, Space.com explained. To keep people informed on where the auroras may show up, the site pointed to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center, which hosts a 30-minute aurora forecast, so hopeful viewers can see when (and if) the lights will reach them.
The only thing standing in our way of viewing the aurora in the continental United States is the moon. As Space.com noted, it will be full Wednesday evening, meaning its light could diminish some of our view.
Moreover, as Business Insider explained, Auroras are best viewed in extremely dark skies, meaning even without the moon, people may want to move away from city lights. And even in total darkness, Business Insider said, the lights are pretty difficult to see. But still, it may be worth taking your chances for such a rare event, so gather a few friends and drive out to a pitch-black area just in case. You’re guaranteed some prime stargazing regardless.