The northern lights may be visible over the US Thursday night – here’s where to see them

23 March 2023

Checking the northern lights off your bucket list is usually saved for a trip to Iceland or an adventure in Norway or Finland.

However, earlier this month, U.S. residents in northern states like Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and even as far south as Colorado enjoyed the rare opportunity to see this magnificent natural phenomenon dance across the night sky.

The cause was a stronger-than-normal geomagnetic storm. Another strong solar event is on the way that may make them visible in the Lower 48 again this week.

EVERSTE/GETTY IMAGES

According to the Space Weather Prediction Center, the storm — forecasted as a possible G2, or “moderate storm” — will be most active on Friday, with lower storm levels Thursday night and Saturday.

The geomagnetic strength of the storm is measured by the Kp index, using a scale of 0 to 9 (0 indicates quiet auroral activity, and 9 indicates an extreme storm).

Knowing this number – and using the Space Weather Prediction Center’s aurora prediction models – you can see where the northern lights might be visible.

On Thursday night and into early morning Friday, the Kp is expected to be between 4 and 6. Based on this prediction, the northern lights are most likely to be visible in Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Maine, but may be visible even farther south.

Check out the chart below from the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute to see if you’ll be able to spot the lights from where you are.

THE UNIVERSITY OF ALASKA FAIRBANKS GEOPHYSICAL INSTITUTE

If you happen to be flying through that area Thursday or Friday night, you might want to switch to a window seat because there’s a good chance you can catch the northern lights from the sky.

SASINPARAKSA/GETTY IMAGES

A number of transatlantic routes pass through the expected path, as well as flights from East Asia to the northeastern U.S. Your best chance, however, is on an eastbound overnight transatlantic flight. Often, pilots will point it out if the aurora comes into sight or even make a slight detour so all passengers can see the show.

Big thanks to the @easyJet pilot of EZY1806 from Reykjavik to Manchester who did a 360 fly by mid flight to make sure all passengers could see the incredible Northern Lights 🤩 pic.twitter.com/A4CHi9Hqgo

— Adam Groves (@APTGroves) February 27, 2023

Flyers can check flightaware.com to see the anticipated route for their flight and choose seats on the correct side of the plane for optimal viewing. However, it’s important to note that flight paths can change at any point before or during your flight.

For the latest updates on viewing the northern lights in your area, subscribe to a notification service like Night Sky Alerts, download the Northern Lights Aurora Forecast app or check in regularly with the Space Weather Prediction Center’s aurora forecast.

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