The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks are forecasting a space weather event that could light up the skies across Canada and much of the United States.
The Geophysical Institute predicts that “Weather permitting, highly active auroral displays will be visible overhead from Inuvik, Yellowknife, Rankin and Iqaluit to Vancouver, Helena, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Bay City, Toronto, Montpelier, and Charlottetown, and visible low on the horizon from Salem, Boise, Cheyenne, Lincoln, Indianapolis and Annapolis,” the July 13 forecast reads, citing cities in both Canada and the U.S.”
It listed 17 states in which the northern lights, or aurora borealis, can clearly be seen. Though not on the list, experts advise that they could be visible over West Virginia, but very low along the horizon. Best viewing times will range from 10 PM to 2 AM.
“Space weather” from the Sun creates the greenish glow of the northern lights. According to the Geophysical Institute, “the light is caused by collisions between electrically charged particles streaming out from the sun in the solar wind that enter Earth’s atmosphere and collide with molecules and atoms of gas, primarily oxygen and nitrogen.”
The process works similar to when an electric current excites the particles in a neon light. Light indicates the release of energy.
Recently, an intense July 7 solar storm disrupted communications on the ground and in space.
Northern lights generally appear at the poles because the Earth’s magnetic field usually channels the flow toward there.
A similar solar storm in April also made the northern lights visible in the Mountain State. Dark skies areas, such as Spruce Knob in Pendleton County, gave viewers a rare show.
One of the closest officially designated dark skies areas to Harrison County lies in Calhoun County Park, nearly two hours from Shinnston on West Virginia Route 16 between Grantsville and Mt. Zion. According to the park’s website, “the park is already known by many to be a premier destination for stargazing and our board of directors’ present endeavor is to secure its status as an official International Dark Skies Park!”
Unfortunately, as of publication time, the National Weather Service predicts showers for Thursday night across West Virginia.