Here’s How to See the Northern Lights From the United States Tonight
People in the United States might get a chance to see the aurora borealis Wednesday night—without having to book a flight to Alaska.
The Space Weather Prediction Center has issued a G1 geomagnetic storm alert for the evening of February 27, meaning the northern lights will be visible a bit farther south than usual. Those in Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Maine should be able to see the waves of color in the sky between sunset and 10 p.m.
Whether or not you’ll be able to see the northern lights depends on where you are. You’ll need clear skies with a good view of the northern horizon—meaning no trees, buildings, or hills can be in your way. You’ll also have to bear the cold long enough for your eyes to adjust to the darkness.
If you’re lucky, you’ll see waves of color towards the north. According to the Northern Lights Center, the aurora borealis forms when gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere collide with electrically charged particles from the sun. The Earth’s magnetic field usually deflects these particles, but since the field is weaker around the poles, some particles slip through, creating the northern (or southern) lights. The color of the light depends on the types of gasses, with green and pink being the most common.
Iceland is known to get some particularly great shows—a green, dragon-shaped spiral was captured during an aurora borealis earlier this month. Don’t expect the view from the U.S. to be quite as vivid, but you might spot some color.
If not, you might be able to spot Mercury at the very least. The planet will be its closest to Earth for the year Wednesday evening just after sunset. According to Thrillist, it should be visible with the naked eye.