Will the northern lights be visible in New England this weekend?

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We’re on aurora watch this weekend in New England.

Several bursts of magnetic energy, commonly referred to as coronal mass ejections (CME), were launched from the Sun’s surface and are now hurtling toward Earth. Some are moving slower than others and will be overtaken in route.

The culmination of energy is expected to arrive by Saturday night and distort Earth’s magnetic field. It’s this distortion that could trigger the aurora borealis, or northern lights, deep into the Lower 48.

Auroras are caused by energized particles from the Sun traveling at up to 45 million miles per hour. When they plow into Earth’s atmosphere, they are directed toward the poles, where they interact with our atmosphere (nitrogen, oxygen, etc.), causing it to fluoresce.

As these CMEs travel through space, we can often get a sense of how they travel, warp and sometimes separate. It’s for this reason that these forecasts change with time.

Initially, we have found there is a robust outlook with a direct hit to Earth and corresponding northern lights deep into the mid-latitudes. What we often end up with is a muted outcome that can sometimes disappoint. This is the nature of forecasting dynamic bundles of energy in space.

NBC10 Boston

NBC10 Boston

Our other challenge is the weather forecast. We’re struggling to keep the clouds away all weekend, and Saturday night is no exception. Right now, it appears that we may have a mostly cloudy sky with temperatures around 50. Even with cloud cover, however, you can still get a “glow” of the northern lights if the event is bright enough.

There’s lots of potential here. We’ll keep our fingers crossed that it all works out!

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