When to look for the Northern Lights this weekend in the Inland Northwest
SPOKANE, Wash. — UPDATE: The peak time for viewing the aurora is now forecast by NOAA to come after 11 p.m. on Saturday. Peak intensity of the aurora is expected to continue through sunrise on the West Coast.
A powerful solar storm will reach earth late Friday night and hang around through early Sunday morning.
That means in the Inland Northwest, there are multiple chances over the next couple of nights to see the aurora borealis, also known as the Northern Lights. The Space Weather Prediction Center (yes– that’s a real thing) has a Geomagnetic Storm Watch up for Saturday. The sun blasted out a large solar flare on Thursday morning, which takes two to three days to reach us depending on how fast it’s moving.
Forecasts from NOAA and the University of Alaska have the solar storm arriving during the daylight hours here in the western U.S. We could see some aurora on the northern horizon early on Saturday morning if the storm arrives a bit early. If you usually get up around 5 a.m. it’s worth a check! Areas shaded in green on our maps could see the aurora overhead while it can be seen on the horizon as far south as the green line.
That intense period of the solar storm will last through the daylight hours and into the early part of the evening here in the Northwest.
Once the sun goes down on Saturday evening (5:46 p.m.) forecasts call for the storm to start to lose power as the hours go by. The aurora will retreat to the north as this happens. Even so, the aurora could begin the night almost overhead before retreating northward.
If you want to maximize your chances of seeing the Northern Lights get away from the light pollution in our towns and cities.
Cell phone cameras with a “night mode” or “long exposure” mode can help you see through some of this light pollution if you can’t get out of town. Of course, you need clear skies to see the aurora, and the weather will cooperate with clear skies expected all weekend.
If you catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights this weekend we’d love to see it! You can share your photos below.
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