The illustrious aurora borealis may be visible to skygazers in the northern Plains, the Great Lakes region and Northeast on Thursday and Friday, the Los Angeles Times reported. It’s infrequent for Americans to get a glimpse of the solar storm’s colorful light phenomena, but there could be a chance this year.
For those who aren’t in the areas mentioned above, live stream footage of 2014’s aurora borealis can be viewed, courtesy of the Canadian Space Agency. [Click here to watch it]
If Americans are able to see it, it will probably only last for five to 10 minutes. “It’s a very rare occurrence,” Joe Kunches of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colo., explained to the Los Angeles Times.
The location of where people will be able to view the northern lights from isn’t exact. “We really don’t have the ability to say when it comes to forecasting the aurora,” Kunches said. But he presumed it could be viewed as far south as Colorado, Illinois and Iowa and maybe even from Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, Seattle and Des Moines, Iowa.
Even if he can’t determine where the natural wonder can be viewed from, Kunches can tell why it happens. “Basically, on late Tuesday, there was a strong eruption at the sun that was caused by strong magnetic fields,” he told the news site. “Part of that eruption was at a cloud, which got blown off.”
The best time to see the northern lights, no matter where people are located, will probably be Thursday around midnight. If the storm isn’t severe enough, it will only be able to be seen at the U.S.-Canadian border, the L.A. Times added.
The aurora borealis -- or the aurora australis as it’s called when it takes place in the Southern Hemisphere -- “occurs when highly charged electrons from the solar wind interact with elements in the Earth's atmosphere,” according to HowStuffWorks.com.
The news site added that various colors begin to change when highly charged electrons from the solar wind come into contact with atmospheric elements like oxygen and nitrogen. The altitude where everything meets all depends on what colors will be displayed in the ephemeral light show.
Here’s another fun fact: The Canada-based Northern Lights Centre wrote “aurora borealis” means “dawn of the north.” According to Roman myth, Aurora was the goddess of dawn.
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