Courtesy Yellowstone National Park (

Northern Lights may be visible in parts of Oregon this weekend

Courtesy Yellowstone National Park (
Author: KGW Staff

PORTLAND, Ore. (KGW) – A strong solar storm directed towards Earth this weekend means there’s a chance the northern lights may be visible in parts of the U.S. — including in Oregon.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) upgraded a geomagnetic solar storm watch from Level 3 (“moderate”) to Level 4 (“severe”) on Thursday. NOAA hasn’t issued a severe warning since 2005.

The geomagnetic solar storm watch is issued when there is potential activity on the sun’s surface that could send waves of high-energy particles toward the Earth. When the particles arrive and interact with the atmosphere, they could generate the northern lights, appearing as a “dancing,” faint greenish glow. Sometimes the lights include other colors like pink or red.

When time will the northern lights be visible?

The particles are expected to reach Earth Friday night or Saturday morning. People have at least the chance to see the northern lights both Friday night and Saturday night after midnight, according to KGW Chief Meteorologist Matt Zaffino.

Where will the northern lights be visible? Will they be seen in Oregon?

The northern lights are known for being seen in countries located far north, including Canada and Sweden. But this weekend, the National Weather Service (NWS) said much of the northern U.S. may be in line to see them. They may even be visible in some of the lower Midwest states and in Oregon.

What should I do to see the northern lights?

For the best chance of seeing the northern lights in Oregon, Zaffino advises to get away from city lights and look to the north.

How do the northern lights form?

The Earth has a magnetic field which is weakest at the north and south poles. When there is a geomagnetic storm, there is an extra amount of charged protons and electrons from the sun that are directed towards Earth, Zaffino said. Those charged protons and electrons feed into the weakest part of the magnetic field and get “excited” when they hit the molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere.

“When they collide with certain molecules in the atmosphere, those molecules start vibrating more and they produce color,” Zaffino said.

Since Wednesday, the sun has produced strong solar flares that have resulted in at least seven plasma outbursts, according to NOAA. Each eruption is known as a coronal mass ejection, and they can contain billions of tons of plasma from the sun’s outer atmosphere, or corona.

When waves of these high-energy particles hit the Earth, they have the potential to disrupt satellite communication systems and power grids on the planet. NOAA alerted power plant operators and spacecraft in orbit to take precautions, but the agency’s Space Weather Prediction Center said most people on Earth won’t have to do anything.

Read the Original Article here.

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