When you think of the northern lights, you probably think you have to take a trip far north, somewhere like Alaska, Canada, or northern Europe, to get a glimpse of this phenomenon. It turns out that every once in a while, with a bit of luck, you can catch a peek in the northern region of the United States. This weekend, from September 30 to October 3, scientists are optimistic about the opportunity for this natural light show to be visible in the US.
The odds of seeing aurora borealis (a fancy way of saying northern lights) are ranked on the Kp Index from zero to nine by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute, with zero being no chance of visibility and nine being the best chance of visibility. The higher the number gets, the larger pool of the hemisphere will be able to see the lights. Unfortunately, like most natural events, there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to see them. Today, September 30, the Kp Index sits at a five, peaking at a six for October 1, and then back down to five from October 2 through 4. Some states have already caught glimpses of the lights, including Massachusetts.
The #northernlights are very visible in Massachusetts right now now! #mawx pic.twitter.com/doFAamQAbp
— Colton Flint (@Tornadof123) September 27, 2022
Below are the states where you have the highest probability of seeing the northern lights.
States where you can see the Northern Lights on March 31 and April 1 and 2
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
States where you might see the Northern Lights on March 31 and April 1 and 2
The northern lights’ colors are created by protons and electrons leaving the sun and hitting the Earth’s magnetic field. This causes gasses naturally found in the atmosphere to change — oxygen makes the green and red lights while nitrogen makes the blue and purple lights.
If you aren’t lucky enough to be in one of the states for the light show, Explore.org is running a live stream from Churchhill, Canada, to get you as close as possible to the real thing.