NOTTINGHAM, MD—Attention, space weather enthusiasts.
Forecasters say that, this weekend, some Marylanders may be able to see the Aurora Borealis – at this time of year, in this part of the country.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center says that a large portion of the United States is included in this weekend’s aurora watch.
The best chance to see the Northern Lights will be on Saturday night into Sunday morning, provided that the weather cooperates.
NOAA says that geomagnetic activity is expected to reach “moderate storm levels” on Saturday, September 28, and into Sunday morning.
The Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) are the result of electrons colliding with the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere. The electrons are energized through acceleration processes in the downwind tail (night side) of the magnetosphere and at lower altitudes along auroral field lines. The accelerated electrons follow the magnetic field of Earth down to the Polar Regions where they collide with oxygen and nitrogen atoms and molecules in Earth’s upper atmosphere.
In these collisions, the electrons transfer their energy to the atmosphere thus exciting the atoms and molecules to higher energy states. When they relax back down to lower energy states, they release their energy in the form of light. This is similar to how a neon light works.
So head outside tonight, away from the city lights if possible, and look up.
Refer to the graphic from NOAA below for more information.