Aurora Borealis Forecast and Northern Lights Forecast at Soft Serve News

2012 Thanksgiving and Friday Northern Lights Show Possible for the US


Two Charged Particle Clouds from Sun heading towards Earth

When will the shock waves hit?

 Cloud Number 1:

 Cloud Number 2:

Details and Northern Lights Viewing Tips

By J. THOMAS -- Soft Serve News, Posted: November 20, 2012

Two Coronal Mass Ejections (CME) emanating from the Sun are heading towards Earth and may be nicely timed to create a late Thanksgiving Northern Lights show and another one on Friday night. A CME is a fast moving cloud of charged particles. It is not clear if the disturbances will be large enough for the displays to penetrate deeply into the US however.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center estimates that the leading edges of the CME shock waves will hit Earth late Thursday, November 22, 2012 and Friday, November 23, 2012. Goddard estimates the duration of the magnetic disturbance will be 8 and 7 hours respectively. It is this disturbance of the Earth's magnetic field that causes the Northern Lights. The arrival time and duration are rough estimates, so Aurora watchers should be looking for potential displays starting late Thursday and Friday. Real-time Aurora Borealis forecasts can be obtained at the Aurora Borealis Forecast page at Soft Serve News.

You can also get Aurora Alerts to let you know when the Northern Lights display is large via Facebook or Twitter

Strong CMEs can sometimes cause trouble for satellites and create problems with electrical grids by inducing currents as the CME cloud interacts with the magnetic field that surrounds the earth, although any problems will be very unlikely with this two CME events.

These CMEs, and the resulting magnetic storms, may be on the mild side (as opposed to powerful), but that's never fully known until they arrive. Powerful CMEs can produce large Aurora Borealis displays that can be visible much further south than is typical. The Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, can range from a faint green glow on the northern horizon to a multicolored, full-sky display which can be one of the most beautiful and awe-inspiring scenes in nature.



To determine if you can see the Northern Lights use the following three steps:

Step 1 -- Know your Location's "KP number."

The KP number is the Geomagnetic Activity Level. The stronger the Aurora, the larger the KP number and the further south it can be seen. Find the KP number for your location on the one of the maps below. On the night you wish to view, periodically check the real-time Aurora Borealis Forecast. This will give you the KP number prediction for the Aurora for the next hour or so. If that number is greater or equal to the number on the map for your location, you're in luck. Even if the predicted number is one or two points too low, it still might be worth a look.

North America

Europe & Asia

Step 2 -- Check the Weather.

Auroras happen in the upper atmosphere, so if there are clouds blocking your view of the stars, you won't be able to see the Aurora.

Step 3 -- Shop for a Dark Spot.

Get away from those city lights. Darkness is best for viewing the Aurora. The fewer competing lights sources, the better. But it is also very important to remember the widest part of the Aurora is when the sun is on the opposite side of the earth. So you want late, nighttime dark.


Experienced Northern Lights hunters are familiar with disappointment. Predictions of when the CME cloud hits the earth are not always accurate. Sometimes CME events produce much smaller displays than expected, or even none at all. Also, it is possible the main Auroral event happens during the day and consequently can only be enjoyed by people on the other side of the world where it's dark.

Even with these uncertainties, seeing the grandeur of a powerful Aurora Borealis display may be a once in a lifetime event, so for some it's worth the gamble to try.

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