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Northern Tier of the US May See Some Northern Lights

July 9, 2012; 2:48 PM ET

Just wanted to give everyone a quick heads-up that there may be a northern light show tonight across the United States/Canada border region tonight. As many of you know, the Sun has been rather active over the past week, and we are noticing a southward shift of the Bz which often indicates that a light show is possible.

What is the Bz you ask? Well, the Bz is the slant of interplanetary magnetic field (IMF). The IMF is defined as the solar magnetic field carried by the solar wind among the planets of the solar system. Basically, what causes the northern lights is the interaction between the IMF and the Earth's magnetosphere. A southward Bz (slant) partially cancels out the "shielding" effect the magnetosphere has and thus allows the solar wind to penetrate farther south than it normally does. With the southward progression of the solar wind comes the southward penetration of the northern lights.

There are several cool programs to help you watch the southward progress of the northern lights, with the easiest to interpret found here, courtesy of NOAA.

Basically, if you are anywhere near the red line, you may be able to see the northern lights. Hopefully, this link is updating as you click on it.

Photo courtesy on AccuWeather Astronomy on Facebook Member Patrick Comins

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Astronomy Blog
The AccuWeather.com astronomy blog, by Mark Paquette, discusses stargazing and astronomy issues and how the weather will interact with current astronomy events.