How to See the Northern Lights Over the U.S. Tonight

Mark Pygas - Author

May 2 2019, Updated 8:24 p.m. ET

Source: Getty

While the Northern Lights are a fairly common sight in Alaska, those in the other states aren't nearly as lucky. But tonight, those of us in the northernmost states may get to see the spectacular light show. The Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) has issued a G1 geomagnetic storm alert for the night of January 23 "due to the influence of a positive polarity coronal hole high-speed stream."

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That's a lot of science, but essentially, the Northern Lights are making their way a little further south than usual. The bad news? The SWPC is running in essential-only mode due to the government shutdown, so they haven't provided us with any information on where the lights will be visible.  

However, a similar G1 storm took place last year and that was visible in parts of Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Maine. And for Canadians, it was visible from pretty much anywhere. 

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Source: SWPC

The G1 alert lasts from 8pm EST on January 23 to 2am on January 24, and the lights probably won't be visible until it gets darker. SWPC also advises watchers to get away from the light pollution of urban centers, and to find somewhere with a clear view of the northern horizon, where the lights will be visible. You can't simply look up into the sky. 

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The Northern Lights, also known as 'Aurora borealis' in the north and 'Aurora australis' in the south, are the result of collisions between gaseous particles in the Earth's atmosphere with charged particles released by the sun.  

The solar cycle is currently near its minimum, and events like these are getting scarcer, so it's well worth getting out tonight if you can. 

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Last week, we were all treated to one of the most incredible lunar phenomena: a Super Blood Wolf Moon Eclipse. The awesome name was the result of three separate moon variations coinciding. 

First, there was the super moon. These occur when a new or full moon coincides with the time of the month where the moon is closest to our humble planet. 

Secondly, it was also a wolf moon, which is just the first full moon of the year. 

Finally, the blood moon, which is used to describe the color of the moon at the time of a lunar eclipse. The red appearance during the eclipse can be attributed to earth's shadow, with light reflecting off of it and yielding a reddish tinge.

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