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Get Ready for a Date with the Northern Lights Tonight

Aurora borealis is observed from Coast Guard Cutter Healy Oct. 2, 2015, while conducting science operations in the Arctic Ocean. Healy is underway in the Arctic Ocean in support of the National Science Foundation-funded Arctic Geotraces, part of an international effort to study the distribution of trace elements in the world’s oceans. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Cory J. Mendenhall) Public Domain.

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 Head shot

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.

 

 

 


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Last Modified: July 13, 2023

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