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We may get another chance to see the northern lights in Idaho soon. Here’s why and when.

The northern lights in Pingree on May 10 and 11 | Courtesy Lynn Steele
(Idaho Statesman) – Skywatchers are hoping for a June encore of May’s northern lights show as the sunspot that caused the phenomenon comes back into Earth’s view.
Scientists say there is some chance the lights will be visible again as far as southern Idaho and beyond. Here’s what we know.
What’s causing the northern lights?
The northern lights display, which had people staring into the darkness on the nights of May 10 and 11, was caused by the strongest solar storm in decades.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said at least five coronal mass ejections were observed beginning May 6, meaning the sun’s corona expelled large amounts of plasma and magnetic field. NOAA describes the releases as magnetic clouds that travel through space and can cause solar storms.
The agency says a solar or geomagnetic storm is a disturbance of the Earth’s magnetosphere, the area around the planet controlled by its magnetic field.
PHOTO GALLERY | Northern lights in eastern Idaho (April)
PHOTO GALLERY | Northern lights create dazzling spectacle in the eastern Idaho sky (May)
It can take several days for the debris from the solar storm to reach Earth’s upper atmosphere, where the particles interact with nitrogen, oxygen and other gas molecules. The interactions cause the colors we see on Earth, such as aurora or northern lights, according to the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Atmospheric Research.
Because of the strength of the storms earlier this month, people reported seeing aurora as far south as the Florida Keys and the Bahamas. The lights were vivid across much of Idaho on May 10, aided by mostly clear skies and a new moon.
When might we see the northern lights again?
Using NOAA data, spaceweatherlive.com says the best chance to see aurora will be between June 8 and 12, when geomagnetic activity is expected to be elevated. During that window, the current forecast shows it will be highest on June 9 and 11, meaning a greater likelihood of seeing aurora those nights if conditions are right.
NOAA has an experimental aurora forecast that updates daily, and smartphone apps estimate the chance of seeing the northern lights based on your location. People have reported seeing the northern lights even when forecasts show a low chance.
Can you see northern lights in Boise in June?
Scientists say the sunspot that ultimately generated those lights will face the Earth again starting June 6. Whether we see aurora again will depend on how strong the sun’s activity is at that time.
The stronger the geomagnetic activity, the more intense the aurora, and the farther south in the Northern Hemisphere it can be seen.
Scientists note that it’s difficult to predict the weather in space. Science news website Live Science also writes that while the geomagnetic activity may not be as strong this time around, it’s worth going outside and looking up on the nights around June 6 just in case the northern lights make a return appearance.
It will help that a new moon rises on June 6, so the moon won’t obscure the lights if they show.
How do you see the northern lights?
Here’s what to know about viewing the northern lights if you struggled last time:
The aurora doesn’t need to be directly overhead; it can be seen from more than 600 miles away if conditions are right.
If possible, get away from city light pollution and buildings that block your view of the horizon.
A few hours after sunset, look north and watch for shades of green, pink, red, yellow, blue and violet. Scientists say the colors are often most intense around midnight.
Sometimes, a camera lens will pick up aurora even when the naked eye can’t perceive the colors
The post We may get another chance to see the northern lights in Idaho soon. Here’s why and when. appeared first on East Idaho News.
Source: eastidahonews.com

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