Chance to See the Northern Lights

Valley residents will have a rare chance to see the aurora borealis, or Northern Lights.

A Coronal Mass Ejection or Solar flare, took place Thursday, sending charged particles from the sun hurling toward Earth.

“If you get a strong solar storm and direct it right at us, there is always the possibility that it will cause the aurora to be a little bit visible further south,” said Pat Durrell, Youngstown State University’s planetarium director.

Thursday’s solar flare ranked an M-6, which is a medium flare.

“The M-class are sort of like the intermediate class of solar intensity. X-class flares are the really big ones,” said Durrell.

X-class flares are the ones that cause electrical and communication problems. Saturday’s solar storm is only expected to produce Northern Lights. Charged particles from the sun interact with particles in the atmosphere creating many different colored waves of light.

“And the different colors depend on whether its more the nitrogen causing the glow or the oxygen,” said Durrell.

If the skies clear out, then look north. If the lights do not appear on Saturday, it may not be the last chance we get to the see the flare.

“Every 11 years, the sun has more fits than usual and can throw off more flares. There is more sun sports, more flares, more of these coronal mass ejections. We call that solar maximum,” said Durrell.

More flares mean more chances for the Northern Lights to develop. Durrell said the sun is expected to reach Solar Maximum later this year or early next year.

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