Science & Technology

Aurora alert: Northern lights could flare in the sky … if clouds don’t block your view

The chances of seeing the northern lights are higher for the next couple of nights, but Western Washington’s trademark fall weather could cloud things over.


We’re talking about two types of weather here: The space weather side of the equation, relating to geomagnetic storms sparked by the solar wind, looks promising. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center says there’s a heightened chance of minor (G1) to moderate (G2) storms tonight and on Wednesday night.

Wednesday night’s space weather forecast suggests an aurora should be visible across the northern tier of the United States.

However, the atmospheric weather side of the equation plays a role as well. National Weather Service’s Seattle office notes that clouds will be approaching Western Washington after midnight:

Reminder, #Aurora could be visible 2nite thru Thu night! For 2nite, most should be clear but clouds approaching from NW after midnite.

— NWS Seattle (@NWSSeattle) October 24, 2017

That means viewing conditions look good for tonight, with mostly clear skies, but could fade just as the auroral display builds to its anticipated peak on Wednesday.

If you want to try your luck, keep a few things in mind: It’s best to watch for the aurora from a spot that’s far away from city lights with clear exposure to the north. The chances of seeing the show typically are better between midnight and dawn, but you have to consider changes in sky conditions as well.

Northern lights tend to look a lot subtler to the naked eye than they do in a long-exposure photo. Some folks actually confirm what they’re seeing by snapping a picture and getting an enhanced look at the telltale green glow.

Here are some online links for updated aurora forecasts, plus tips on where to go:

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