Chance to see Northern Lights in Indiana, Ohio

Northern Lights
Northern Lights(WPTA)
Published: Aug. 17, 2022 at 2:15 PM EDT
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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - Tonight, you might see something that for many is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, especially if you live in Northeast Indiana and Northwest Ohio.

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center says a strong geomagnetic storm (G3 on a scale of 1 to 5) is probable tonight, resulting in the Aurora Borealis, aka the Northern Lights, making an appearance.

Geomagnetic storms are caused by electrons and protons that are ejected from the sun, in what are called Coronal Mass Ejections, entering the Earth’s atmosphere at the poles where the magnetic field is the weakest, then colliding with atmospheric atoms and molecules, which causes an energy transfer, which eventually results in the Northern Lights.

How Auroras Form
How Auroras Form(WPTA)

Disturbances in the Earth’s magnetic field are measured by the Planetary K-index, which ranges from 0 on the low end to 9 on the high end, and the higher the K-index, the further south the Aurora Borealis has the potential to be seen.

Tonight’s geomagnetic storm is forecasted to reach at 7 out of 9 on the K-index, with the most likely timing occurring 08/17 at 11pm to 08/18 at 2am.

This level of strength for a geomagnetic storm typically only happens 130 times over an 11 year solar cycle, according to the SWPC.

People in Northern Michigan have the chance to see the Northern Lights overhead, but at our latitude, you likely won’t see the beautiful, swirling green high in the sky, but rather a green glow on the horizon, and we typically have a lot going against us here in our area to see anything at all.

Viewing line for Northern Lights 08172022. Best viewing is north of Northern Michigan
Viewing line for Northern Lights 08172022. Best viewing is north of Northern Michigan(WPTA)

Your best chance to see it? Get away from the city and travel north.

Light pollution from cities and towns significantly decreases your chance at seeing the Northern Lights at our latitude, so getting to a location as dark as possible is your best chance.

Cloud cover on the horizon could squash any chance at seeing the Northern Lights, but the forecast for tonight looks pretty good, but the moon will be in the sky where you’ll want to look, making it harder for other “things” in the sky to stand out.

You also stand a better chance at seeing the northern lights using long-exposure photography.

So tonight, get out to a dark spot from 11 pm to 2am, and look to the north/northwest for the chance to see what could be a once in a lifetime experience

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