(WYTV) – The Northern Lights can be seen several times a year in places like Northern Canada and Iceland. So, seeing the lights around Youngstown is rare, but there’s a chance of it happening Wednesday night.
But, what are the best conditions to see it and why is it dipping so far south? We talked to an astronomer at YSU, who gave us some insight.
Just like we have weather here in our atmosphere, there is what astronomers call “space weather.”
An Aurora Borealis is the result of a geomagnetic storm from a sun spot.
“It’s simply the sun bellowing out a bunch of protons and electrons and if it does that in the direction of earth, then a couple of days later these charged particles can go soaring by the earth and they can cause effects with our magnetic field,” said YSU’s Dr. Patrick Durrell.
The stronger the storm, the further south the glowing atmosphere can be seen. Wednesday night’s geomagnetic storm is about middle of the road, according to Durrell.
“To see it if the aurora reaches down as far south as they suggest, you’d have to look straight north, and the closer you are to the lake, the better,” he said.
It doesn’t always show up in the same way either, so what should we look for?
“Sometimes it just looks like almost like a flag waving in the breeze. Sometimes it’ll just be… half the sky will be a certain color, what’s that greenish glow?” Durrell said.
Just like a weather forecast, a forecast for the Northern Lights has a lot of variables. So what are our odds of seeing it?
“It’s a bit of a longshot,” Durrell said.
If our clouds clear out and you look just above the northern horizon in a very dark place, you may see a green glow.
Durrell says that even the chance of seeing it is worth it.
“It’s like, well, if you’ve got a good north-facing direction and it’s clear out, go out and take a look. You might be pleasantly surprised because it really is a neat thing to see,” he said.
The lights can last anywhere from minutes to hours long.
The best time to look for the Northern Lights if it is visible for us would be from 11 p.m. Wednesday until around 2 a.m. Thursday.