If you are in Pennsylvania, tonight may be a rare opportunity to see the northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis, a solar storm caused when atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere crash into particles radiating from the sun. The aurora frequently dances across Canadian skies, but tonight’s potential event (weather and cloud cover permitting) could be visible in the Mid-atlantic, due to stronger solar storms, according to The Guardian.
“The earliest sightings of the aurora date back almost 30,000 years. A French cave painting dated back to 30,000 BC depicted a suspected aurora, according to information from NASA,” the article notes.
The best chance to see this nocturnal event is to head outside between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m, when the sky will be darkest.
However, if you miss the chance to see it, expect to have other chances, according to the New York Times. The shift in the sun’s magnetic fields which is causing the lights to be visible further south is part of an 11-year cycle that will crescendo next year in the solar maximum phase.
Want to snap a photo of the northern lights that will win over your friends and family? Check out Photographing the Aurora Borealis: How to Shoot the Northern Lights, available as an ebook in Falvey’s digital resources.
Shawn Proctor, MFA, is Communication and Marketing Program Manager at Falvey Library. He has never seen the northern lights yet, even though they were visible in the sky when he canoed a river in Canada. He was tired that night and mistakenly thought he’d see them a different time.