Solar Flare to Produce Spectacular Northern Lights

March 17, 2013; 5:40 AM ET
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This photograph of the Northern Lights is courtesy of Philippe Moussette at Observatoire Mont Cosmos, Quebec, Canada.

An Earth-Directed coronal mass ejection (CME) occurred during the early morning hours Friday.

The resulting solar flare was pointed directly at the United States for a duration of nearly two hours, according to Hunter Outten. Outten is a contributing forecaster for the AccuWeather Astronomy page.

"The CME is pretty strong and is coming pretty quick," said Outten. An intense Northern Lights show will cover a large part of the northern U.S.

"The lights could be visible for the states of Maryland, Pennsylvania and everywhere northward," said Outten.

"The best time to look for them will be around midnight," said Outten. "The states in the northernmost U.S. may be able to see them all night long."

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Viewing Conditions Saturday

The best viewing conditions will be in the eastern New England, where skies will be clear. Skies will partially clear around New York City and Pennsylvania, away from Lake Erie.

Partly cloudy conditions for the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan and western New York will limit the chance to view the lights.

Viewing Conditions Sunday

Again on Sunday night, the New England states will have the best chance to view the lights. Skies will be clear across this region, as well as across upstate New York.

Cloudy skies will dominate the mid-Atlantic and Midwest with skies set to partially clear across the northern High Plains.

There will also be partly cloudy skies over Idaho, central to eastern Oregon and the extreme eastern parts of Washington state on Sunday.

According to NOAA, the geomagnetic storm that will produce the northern lights will arrive late on Saturday and be a minor storm. The geomagnetic storm on Sunday is rated as moderate. The more intense the storm is, the better chance it will be for the Northern Lights to appear.

"This geomagnetic storm may disrupt communications, such as satellite television and G.P.S. units," said Outten.


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