Aurora Borealis Expected To Be Vibrant in Northern U.S. Sky

Oak Hill, WV (WOAY-TV): The Aurora Borealis or northern lights are set to provide a late-night light show across the northern U.S.

A pair of coronal mass ejections (CMEs) or large expulsions of plasma from the Sun’s corona, launched late in the week are expected to arrive late tonight and early Monday. The high-speed stream will likely impact the Earth’s magnetic field and generate a light show.

These CMEs occur during an active solar cycle, which the sun has already entered. When the high-speed stream of plasma enters the upper part of the atmosphere, it gives off a light known as the Aurora Borealis or northern lights.

Generally speaking, southern West Virginia is too far south to see the northern lights. The red-dotted line shows the southern extent of where the northern lights will be visible tonight. The closest approach of the northern lights to our region will be Lake Erie.

If you have friends from Portland, Maine, to Seattle, advise them of the northern lights. The best place to view the Aurora Borealis is away from ambient city lights. However, cloud cover will be a big factor in being able to see the northern lights because of an active weather pattern.

In the Solar Cycle progression, we were in a sunspot minimum cycle from 2017 to 2020 and recently broke out of that and have moved into an active sunspot period since 2021. Historically, coronal mass ejections are more likely to produce the northern lights during an active solar cycle, so chances are we will see them occur occasionally through the summer into next fall.

The most significant coronal mass ejections can produce the Aurora Borealis (northern lights) as far south as our region. The most significant Aurora that can be seen as far south as Route 19 and I-64 require the Kp Index (a measurement of the Earth’s magnetic field that helps to quantify the power of the Aurora Borealis) to reach 9. As of earlier today, the Kp Index is only 4 and only expected to reach 6-7 for the upcoming event tonight.

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