Photographers take note, Aurora Borealis to Hit 17 U.S. States Tonight
In a rare opportunity for many sky-watching photographers, a solar storm will spread the aurora borealis across 17 states tonight.
Usually, the aurora borealis, or Northern Lights as they’re also called, spill their spectacular glow across the skies of much more northern latitudes.
However, tonight a solar storm that hits the earth further south than usual will deliver an unusual visual treat to a huge chunk of the United States.
The sun has spent much of 2023 so far being unusually active and tonight’s storm is the latest example.
A forecast from the Geophysical Institute of the University of Alaska in Fairbanks has spent days predicting that on Thursday, July 13th, night watchers with clear skies overhead would probably be able to see the aurora unfurl.
The optimal viewing regions obviously include Alaska and almost all of Canada. Still, in the continental U.S, the aurora borealis will also be visible over Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, New York, New Hampshire, Vermont, Indiana, Maine, and Maryland.
Those who stare up at the skies, hopefully with cameras ready, will be able to see variations of the same electromagnetic light show across all of the above areas.
The lights are even expected to be visible in the skies above many urban areas in these parts of the U.S. and Canada. The website Phys has reported the possibility of Northern Lights’ visibility over cities like Milwaukee, Salem, Boise, Cheyenne, Annapolis, Indianapolis and many others.
The maximal scale of the aurora for tonight is expected to hit a level of Kp 6. Even yesterday it was already at Kp 5 in some parts of northern North America.
For reference, this is a scale for geomagnetic storm intensity and goes from 0 to 9, with 9 being the highest level. NOAA explains more in its aurora-watching guide here.
Tonight’s storm isn’t the brightest display of aurora borealis to hit the earth in 2023 to date, but its spread into parts of the continent that rarely see this kind of phenomenon is what makes it so noteworthy for photographers and anyone who’s curious.
Another useful detail is that tonight’s moon is in a “last quarter” phase, making it dim enough to appreciate the Northern Lights even more.
The last time an especially intense geomagnetic storm spread the aurora borealis far beyond its usual near-arctic range was in March of 2023 when skywatchers as far south as Arizona could enjoy the spectacle.
If you’ve got a good night photography camera and are live in one of the states described above, take advantage of this chance to capture some lovely shots, assuming the clouds cooperate.