Powerful solar weather brings northern lights further south

The Northern Lights could be visible as far south as Pennsylvania and Iowa Friday, said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center.

The remarkable sky lights may be moving further south as a result of a geomagnetic storm that started Wednesday, experts said.

The storm is the result of a coronal mass ejection, or CME, a powerful burst of magnetized plasma from the sun’s corona, the outermost layer.

Scientists discovered two CMEs erupting at the sun and aiming for Earth, which they expected on Aug. 18.

The CMEs could combine to create a geomagnetic storm, scientists say, to reach strong levels that could create auroras closer to the equator than normal.

The auroras, which are part of what we know as the Northern Lights, form when high-energy particles from the sun collide with Earth’s atmosphere. The particles glow because they generate the gases in the air.

Stronger energy moves the glowing particles farther from the poles, experts say.

PHOTO: The Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, appear in the sky on January 8, 2017, west of Fairbanks, Alaska.

The Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, appear in the sky on January 8, 2017, west of Fairbanks, Alaska. The Aurora Borealis is the result of the interaction between solar wind and Earth’s magnetosphere.

Lance King/Getty Images, FILE

Leading up to the stronger storm, scientists said a high-speed flow from the coronal hole arrived Thursday evening to create a more small geomagnetic storm.

A coronal hole is a cooler region in the sun’s outer layer that can generate fast solar winds that are full of charged particles that can spread across the solar system.

These high-speed currents can also create auroras on Earth.

Typically, auroras are most visible from December to February, but viewers also have high chances from September to November, experts say.

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Stronger solar weather is needed for such a view in the summer months.

Alaska is known as a top US destination for seeing the lights, but visitors can expect a view of northern Maine under favorable conditions, scientists say.

Experts say less populated areas, where the night sky remains darkest, are most favorable for viewing the magical sky lights north.

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