Northern Lights Over Labor Day Weekend: Best Chance Of Visibility

Some states along the U.S.-Canada border could see the spectacular northern lights over the Labor Day weekend due to a geomagnetic storm, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The best chances to see the aurora borealis, a dancing display of brilliant shades of green and pink, are Saturday and Sunday.

The best chances are in Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and Maine, the agency said. In those states, some of the best chances are Detroit and Grand Rapids in Michigan, Milwaukee and Minneapolis.

But some cities to the south have at least a shot of seeing the northern lights, according to the ABC News affiliate in South Bend, Indiana. In addition to South Bend, some of the cities include Des Moines, Iowa; Omaha, Nebraska; Chicago; Indianapolis; Fort Wayne, Indiana; Columbus and Cleveland in Ohio; Pittsburgh; Buffalo, New York; New York City; and Boston.

The science behind the northern lights is a bit complicated — all you really need to know is that they are jaw-dropping beautiful. Basically, they become visible to the human eyes when electrons from solar storms collide with the upper reaches of the Earth’s atmosphere.

In normal circumstances, the Earth’s magnetic field guides the electrons in such a way that the aurora forms two ovals approximately centered at the magnetic poles. But during geomagnetic storms, the ovals expand away from the poles and give some lucky people in the United States a sky show they’ll never forget.

Most often, the auroras appear as tall rays that look like a colorful curtain made of folds of cloth, according to NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center.

“During the evening these rays form arcs that stretch from horizon to horizon,” the agency said on a website. “Late in the evening, near midnight, the arcs often begin to twist and sway, just as if a wind were blowing on the curtains of light. At some point, the arcs may expand to fill the whole sky, moving rapidly and becoming very bright. This is the peak of what is called an auroral substorm.”

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