Northern lights may be visible tonight

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The northern tier of states could see a nifty light show Saturday night and early Sunday morning, wherever the sky is clear, based on the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ prediction issued by the Geophysical Institute.

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center indicated a view is possible as far south as Chicago and Detroit, and perhaps northern portions of Ohio, but very low on the horizon an hour or two after midnight — if you have an unobstructed view.

The aurora borealis, or Northern Lights, follow a major geomagnetic storm. A significant solar eruption on March 20 — a coronal mass ejection — sent charged particles streaming toward Earth the past few days.

Seeing the Northern Lights at high latitudes is not uncommon, including the states bordering Canada (perhaps 10 times a year), but are rarely visible in the Ohio Valley.

Electrically charged solar particles collide with gas particles in the outer reaches of Earth’s atmosphere, lighting up the sky in dancing displays of vibrant colors that glow like a neon light.

Oxygen molecules are responsible for greenish curtains of light, and nitrogen atoms produce red and blue colors.

Deep, dark rural skies with no clouds are required for a view in the eastern sky shortly before midnight, and in the western sky after midnight Saturday night into early Sunday.

Meteorologist Ben Gelber was mentioned in article about the challenges in seeing the northern lights, which appeared in the New York Times.

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