Northern Lights Coming To East Coast of US: When And Where You Can Witness Aurora Borealis

By Philip Ross on April 12, 2013 7:05 PM EDT

northern lights
Aurora Borealis tonight awes stargazers on the northeastern coast of the U.S. See tonight's Aurora Borealis again. (Photo: Flickr/nick_russill)

Northern lights are coming to the East Coast of the U.S. and can be seen the late evening of Saturday, April 13.

Accuweather reports that a solar flare left the sun at 2 a.m. Thursday morning and that the radiation will reach earth Saturday evening around 8 p.m., creating ribbons of color across the sky above the northeastern corner of the U.S.

Check out a slideshow of the northern lights over the East Coast Saturday

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According to Accuweather, the northern lights this Saturday will be most spectacular over areas in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio and South Jersey.

From Accuweather:

Viewing conditions will be best in the mid-Atlantic, specifically for parts of Pennsylvania and the Delmarva. Most of the country will have poor to fair views as a result of cloud cover, with areas further south not experiencing the aurora at all. A pocket of fair conditions sits over southeastern Oregon and the southwest corner of Idaho. A swath of partly cloudy conditions will also spread over a section of the Ohio Valley for parts of Michigan, Indiana and Illinois. Ohio will experience fair to good viewing conditions. For the rest of the country conditions will be poor.

What's The Reason For Saturday's Northern Lights Display?

A northern lights display is actually an indicator of a magnetic storm caused by a disturbance in Earth's atmosphere.

The solar flare that occurred Thursday morning was categorized as a 6 to 8 on the Kp index - the scale used to measure the intensity of a geomagnetic storm. The scale ranges from 0 to 9. Measurements ranging from 4 to 8 indicate a magentic storm and means that radiation effects will have a greater reach, increasing the likelihood of the presence of northern lights.

Astronomer Hunter Outten told Accuweather that these are the best conditions for seeing a direct effect on our planet.

The ribbons of color seen in the sky during a northern lights display are the result of colliding gasses in our planet's atmosphere caused by charged particles jettisoned from the sun's atmosphere. In these instances, electrons and protons from the sun are blown towards the earth on solar wind and collide with the envelope of gasses surrounding our planet.

What To Expect

The northern lights usually extend from 50 miles to as high as 400 miles above the earth's surface. Pale green and pink are the most common colors witnessed during a display.

According to aurorahunter.com, a northern lights display can last anywhere from 10 minutes to all night. Midnight to 2 a.m. is the best time to see them, as this is when the sky is darkest.

Read more from iScience Times:  
Powerful sun storm creates record-setting solar flare

5 Effects of 2012's Solar Flare

Voyager 1 Leaves Solar System: Where Is It Going?

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