GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — With clearing skies, much of West Michigan may be able to see the aurora borealis, or “northern lights,” low in the northern sky Wednesday night into Thursday morning.
According to the Space Weather Prediction Center:
“SWPC Forecasters are anticipating G3 (Strong) Geomagnetic Storm conditions to occur on January 9 and 10. The source of this disturbance is a fairly fast Earth-directed coronal mass ejection (CME) launched from centrally-located Region 1944 at 1832 UTC (1:32 p.m. EST) on January 7. Full evaluation and modeling of this event has refined the forecast and indicates a fairly direct interaction with Earth, with the WSA-Enlil model putting arrival mid-morning UTC on January 9 (very early morning EST). In addition, the S2 (Moderate) Solar Radiation Storm associated with this event is currently near, but below, the S3 (Strong) threshold, with values leveling off at this time. At the Sun, Region 1944 remains well-placed and energetic.
What does all of that mean? It means that if you live in the northern latitudes, you will have a good shot at seeing the northern lights on the 9th and 10th, if you have clear skies! It also means that if you were planning to do a space walk in the next few days, it would probably be a good idea to postpone! Wouldn’t want you out there doing a space walk with protons headed our way!”
While aurora conditions will still be likely on Thursday night, our sky in West Michigan will probably be cloudier. As is always the case here, you’ll have the best possibility of seeing auroral activity if you get away from city lights in an area where trees or other objects don’t block the northern horizon.
The above image shows areas where the aurora is expected to be most visible Wednesday night, courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.