Northern Lights Could Be Seen in Continental U.S.

August 3, 2010; 11:10 AM ET
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An aurora borealis spins above the Talkeetna Range and a hay field on Farm Loop Road near Palmer, Alaska, on Friday, Feb. 29, 2008. The center of the circular corona, usually near Earth's north pole sometimes fluctuates farther south and can be seen from a lower latitude as in this instance. (AP Photo/Bob Martinson)

Some U.S. residents may have a rare chance to see the aurora borealis, more commonly known as the northern lights, late tonight and into early Wednesday morning.

While the best viewing will be across Canada, including Edmonton and Winnipeg, the lights will be visible in parts of Alaska. The lights will also be visible in Portland, Ontario, Canada, which means they could be seen in upstate New York. Expert Senior Meteorologist Paul Walker said it will be cloudy along the St. Lawrence River on New York's northern border, while hit-or-miss showers could occur in southern New England in the early evening.

The lights may also be seen as far south as Madison, Wis., and Lansing, Mich. Walker said that this corridor will also be partly cloudy with some hit-or-miss storms.

The Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks maintains an "aurora forecast." Its forecast suggests that while the aurora activity will be moderate on Tuesday, it will be "active" Wednesday and Thursday.'s astronomy blogger Lisa Beightol said the northern lights are actually the result of coronal mass ejection. Beightol described CME as "blob of solar material" that is thrown into space after an explosion on the sun.

According to NASA, the CMEs are huge clouds of charged particles that fly away from the sun so quickly, they can travel 93 million miles to Earth in just three or four days.

When the charged particles of the CME interact with the Earth's magnetic field, a geomagentic storm can occur. The solar particles of the CME interact with nitrogen and oxygen in Earth's atmosphere and create red and green colors.

NOAA is projecting a 10 percent chance of a major geomagnetic storm and a 45 percent chance of visible aurorae.

A band of Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights, stretches over the Chugach Range near Palmer, Alaska in this February file photo. Scientists think they have discovered the energy source of the spectacular color displays seen in the northern lights. (AP Photo/Bob Martinson, FILE)

Related to the story:

Northeast Radar

North Central Radar

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