Northern Lights May Be Visible This Weekend In NJ

The Northern Lights, one of nature’s greatest marvels, could be visible low on the horizon in New Jersey this weekend, according to aurora forecasters.

Also known aurora borealis, the display of the colorful lights may be possible due to a solar flare on the surface of the sun that could produce a geomagnetic storm.

The UAF Geophysical Institute, which tracks visibility of the Northern Lights, predicts “high” activity on Saturday, March 23.

“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 UAF Geophysical Institute based in Alaska reports.

Here is a map of possible visibility during the geomagnetic storm:

Of course, skies will need to be clear if we have any hope of seeing activity. Luckily, Saturday night is expected to be mostly clear, with a low around 30.

The science behind the colorful blue, green, purple and red northern lights is a bit complicated — all you really need to know is that they are so beautiful they will make your jaw drop in awe. But basically, they become visible to the human eyes when electrons from solar storms collide with the upper reaches of the Earth’s atmosphere.

In normal circumstances, the Earth’s magnetic field guides the electrons in such a way that the aurora forms two ovals approximately centered at the magnetic poles. But during geomagnetic storms, the ovals expand away from the poles and give some lucky people in the United States a sky show they’ll never forget.

Most often, the auroras initially appear as tall rays that look like a colorful curtain made of folds of cloth, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center.

“During the evening these rays form arcs that stretch from horizon to horizon,” the agency said on its website. “Late in the evening, near midnight, the arcs often begin to twist and sway, just as if a wind were blowing on the curtains of light. At some point, the arcs may expand to fill the whole sky, moving rapidly and becoming very bright. This is the peak of what is called an auroral substorm.”

Here’s another helpful map from NOAA’s Systems Engineering System to help you determine your chances of seeing the Aurora Borealis this weekend. To understand it, find the blue, green, red and yellow Kp lines. The higher the number assigned to it, the greater your chances are to see the northern lights.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center map