Northern Lights likely visible Sunday night

- A much anticipated solar storm (known as a coronal mass ejection or CME) is hitting Earth and producing some pretty incredible aurora borealis.  This particular storm is strong enough though that the mid-latitudes may get to view them with Minnesota and much of the Upper Midwest in the zone of potential viewing.  For Minnesota to even have a chance at seeing this wonderful natural phenomena, the Kp level of the incoming CME, the strength of the solar storm coming at Earth, typically has to be above a 5 on the Kp scale.  The higher the number is, the stronger the storm and likely the further south the lights can be seen.  The Earth is already experiencing a 6, which is strong enough that much of Minnesota should be able to see them under the right conditions.

So if you want a chance to view them Sunday night or early Monday, you need to get as far away from city lights as you can.  For metro viewers, this means getting out and away from the metro light pollution as well… don’t just go to Minnetonka for example, and expect to see them.  You have to get at least several miles away from the last remnants of city life; the further the better.  Then just look to the north and cross your fingers.  But be patient.  The Aurora isn’t a constant phenomenon.  It waxes and wanes through the night even during the strongest storm and in the best conditions.  Often times, there ends up being a small window, which may be an hour or less, during the night where the lights are visible in rural areas of Minnesota.  So yes, it does take some strategic planning to see them, but it also takes a good dose of luck.

Happy hunting!

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