The Northern Lights — the dazzling nighttime phenomenon typically bound to the Arctic — may reach as far south as Massachusetts this week.
Unfortunately, it looks like wintry cloud cover will likely obscure any potential spectacle for earthbound stargazers in New England.
Some background: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a geomagnetic storm watch from Wednesday to Friday because of a major coronal mass ejection on Monday. In other words, the Sun had a large burst of plasma, which will cause disturbances in Earth’s magnetic field, which in turn expands the range of visibility for the Northern Lights away from the poles.
An updated look at the coronal mass ejection from yesterday's C7.4 solar flare. From earth's viewpoint we see an asymmetrical full halo CME which is pretty much guaranteed to impact our planet.
— SpaceWeatherLive (@_SpaceWeather_) December 8, 2020
The storm hits Earth Wednesday night as a minor “G1” storm before growing to a strong “G3” rating Thursday. At that strength, aurora can potentially appear over much of the northern United States, including all of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and a sliver of Massachusetts — think Berkshire, Franklin, and Worcester counties along the northern border.
A G1 (Minor) geomagnetic storm watch is in effect for 09-10 December due to the anticipated arrival of a CME produced by a C7 flare from region 2790 on the 7th.
— NOAA Space Weather (@NWSSWPC) December 8, 2020
In ideal conditions, those who want to witness the Northern Lights need to find a spot away from light-polluted towns and cities. But it doesn’t look like it will matter much Wednesday night, as clouds are covering most of the region overnight and won’t clear up until morning. It looks like the Midwesterners will have one on us New Englanders when it comes to lucky clear skies.
— AccuWeatherAstronomy (@AccuAstronomy) December 9, 2020
The region may have slightly clearer skies Thursday night, however. If you’re desperate to catch a glimpse and can’t FaceTime someone in South Dakota, keep an eye on cloud cover forecasts and NOAA’s handy live prediction on the size and strength of the aurora. Keep in mind that the aurora forecast only shows activity directly overhead, but it’s visible low on the northern horizon from hundreds of miles away.
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