We May Get a Chance to Spot the Northern Lights Tonight

What we refer to as the northern lights is caused by billions of flashes occurring in sequence as the particles collide with the Earth’s gases in the magnetosphere.

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There’s a geomagnetic storm happening tonight and if clouds break up in time, some of New England may be able to see those northern lights produced by it.

According to the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, the potential view line starting around 8 p.m. Friday includes Maine, Vermont and most of New Hampshire. The best chance for viewing comes between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m.

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First, let’s go over how northern lights form:

Essentially it’s light produced by the collision of charged particles with gasses in the earth’s upper atmosphere.

These are charged electrons and atoms emitted from the sun that travel through the earth’s magnetic field and enter the earth’s atmosphere where the field is weakest - that would be the poles.

It’s billions of flashes occurring in sequence as the particles collide with the Earth’s gases in the magnetosphere. This happens about 600 miles above the earth’s surface, and what our eyes see are the auroras which appear to be moving and dancing in the sky. 

The electrons collide with various molecules in the atmosphere, the resulting excitation of these collisions causes varying colors based on the height and type of molecules hit. Oxygen molecules will produce red auroras, nitrogen molecules will produce blue auroras, oxygen molecules will lean for green auroras and nitrogen molecules will produce pink auroras. 

For more information from the NOAA on the geomagnetic storm watch, click here.

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