Tuesday, February 7, 2023
Feb. 7, 2023

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Aurora borealis may be visible in Washington this week

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SEATTLE — Sometimes promises of celestial treats don’t pan out, but it can still be worth looking up and trying to catch a glimpse.

The effects of a strong G3 storm, caused by flare ups on the sun through Aug. 19 mean there could be visible aurora borealis as far south as the Washington-Oregon border, according to NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center.

“We’ll see,” said Mike McFarland, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Seattle. “We get a lot of false alarms for the aurora. I’ve seen it three times, and it was never because they said there was an aurora coming. It just showed up, and I was in a place where it happened to be dark.”

Geomagnetic storms occur when a flare-up on the sun shoots out a coronal mass ejection, or a persistent high-speed solar wind stream, that streams past Earth, according to the Astronomy North Northern Lighthouse Project.

This causes the Earth’s magnetic field to become unsettled, and if that lasts long enough, can become a geomagnetic storm that could cause voltage irregularities and false alarms from security devices as well as hours of vibrant auroras.

NOAA Space Weather does not indicate the best times to try to see the aurora, but McFarland advised waiting until it’s dark and looking to the north.

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