Northern Lights possible over U.S. Friday night; will CNY see them?

SYRACUSE, NY (WSYR-TV) – A couple bursts of solar energy interacting with the Earth’s outer atmosphere could cause northern lights to be viewed over parts of the United States, including Central New York, Friday night, May 10.

This solar energy, called a ‘coronal mass ejection’ or CME, is traveling at more than a million miles an hour and is expected to arrive at the Earth’s atmosphere later Friday afternoon or Friday night.

However, this astronomical show is dependent on our skies being clear, and as of now, our viewing weather for Central New York looks to be poor Friday night.

What are ‘northern lights’ and why do they occur?

The CME comes from active sunspots on the sun’s surface. The cluster of sunspots the current flares started from are the size of 16 earths!

This solar energy travels through space and then reacts with the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Electrons and protons in this part of the atmosphere become ‘excited’ and the result are the colors that make up the northern lights in the sky.

How unusual could Friday night’s show be?

There are actually a series of CMEs that are traveling toward the Earth in the next couple of days, and that has prompted the Space Weather Prediction Center to issue its first ‘Severe’ G4 Magnetic Storm Watch since 2005.

A storm of this magnitude is not only strong enough to allow viewing of northern lights in the northern parts of the United States, like Central New York, but possibly as far south as northern California and Alabama!

Again, the forecast for Friday night in Central New York is for cloudy skies, but the Storm Team will keep you updated as to whether there might be some breaks to allow for some viewing.

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