Updated 05:56 PM EDT, Wed, Oct 27, 2021

Northern Lights May Appear in Night Sky Above Boston, Chicago, Great Lakes

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Recent solar storms may allow people all across the Northeastern and Midwestern United States to catch a rare glimpse of the Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights. The celestial phenomenon will light up the sky the night of Jan. 10, and those willing to stay up late and avoid bright city lights may be able to see the rare show that usually does not escape the Arctic.

According to the Space Weather Prediction Center, a solar flare on Jan. 7 may allow some U.S. residents to see the Northern Lights on Friday night. The light show is predicted to be visible as far west as Colorado and as far south as Illinois. However, according to Joe Kunches of the Space Weather Prediction Center, there is no proven method to predict where exactly the Northern Lights will be seen or at what time at night.

"It's a very rare occurrence ... We really don't have the ability to say when it comes to forecasting the aurora ..." Kunches told The Los Angeles Times.

This means that the rare phenomenon may show up at any time over a vast expanse of the United States, and it is possible that the lights may only be visible for five to 10 minutes if they do appear. The best chance to catch the Aurora is after midnight and in less populated areas as city lights may dampen the brightness of the Northern Lights or hide them altogether. 

The Northern Lights are such a rare sight in the United States due to their origin. Andrew West, a Boston University professor in the department of astronomy, explained that the lights appear because of the Earth's magnetic field and are altered by solar flares.

"The Northern lights mostly appear at the very northern or southern latitudes because that's where the magnetic fields of Earth come through the atmosphere...Following large solar flares where huge amounts of particles are sent into the solar system, we can often see auroras and sometimes at mid-latitudes," said West. 

Until the actual solar flare particles hit the Earth's atmosphere, scientists cannot predict where the lights will show up. The region that gets to enjoy the Northern Lights is the one where the solar flare particles meet the atmosphere and the magnetic field of the Earth.

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