In April and May of this year, Arizona residents reported an unusual, breathtaking sight in the night sky — a glimpse of the northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis. Sightings of the Northern Lights are becoming more common in the United States, but Arizona didn’t make the list of 17 states that will be able to witness this stunning sky next week.
The northern lights are often seen in Earth’s northernmost regions as they extend from the North Pole, including in places like Alaska, Canada and Scandinavia, but they’ve only recently been visible to people farther south. These lights occur most frequently when the sun reaches a point in its 11-year cycle known as the solar maximum.
This cycle increases the frequency and distance of geomagnetic storms that lead to aurora borealis, such as the event in late April when the northern lights can be seen as far south as Tucson. A wider range of the world will be able to witness this amazing phenomenon over the next few years, but we are still at the beginning of the cycle as it will peak in 2025.
Where are the northern lights visible in July?
On July 13, the northern lights may appear over 17 US states if weather conditions are clear.
The natural phenomenon is usually caused by solar winds from the sun and Earth’s magnetic field, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Space Weather Prediction Center.
University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute Auroral activity is expected to be high Next Thursday, causing very active light shows that will be visible further south than usual in these states:
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
- New York
- New Hampshire
Why don’t the northern lights appear in Arizona on July 13th?
Although a strong geomagnetic storm is expected on July 13, it may not be strong enough to expand into Arizona, according to Alex Young, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service Phoenix.
“The more energetic the electrons get, the farther south those lights will go,” Young said. “Any time the northern lights can be seen in Arizona, activity levels must be very rare.”
The rare glimpse of the northern lights in Arizona this year was due to the intensity of the geomagnetic storms that the aurora borealis come from, according to The National Weather Service’s Space Weather Prediction Center.
It begins when the solar corona, or the outer part of its atmosphere, releases a large amount of plasma and magnetic field, according to the weather service. This phenomenon is known as coronal mass ejection, called CME for short.
When CMEs interact with Earth’s magnetic field, this exchange causes geomagnetic storms.
Depending on the intensity of the storm, the aurora borealis may be seen further south than usual. The storm that caused the northern lights to appear over Tucson It is rated G4, or severe geomagnetic storm On a scale of 1 to 5.
The geomagnetic storm that occurred on July 13 is expected to be at a G2 level, According to the Institute of Geophysics at the University of Alaska Fairbankswhich means that it will be possible to see the northern and eastern edge of the United States the Northern Lights.
G4 or G5-rated storms can be seen directly over the northern edge of the United States and extend into southern parts, such as Arizona.
When can Arizona see the northern lights?
Since the northern lights solar maximum has not yet peaked, there are still many opportunities over the next two years for Arizonans to see the green, red, and blue lights without traveling far.
December 2019 saw a start Solar Cycle 25. The cycle is categorized by the sun’s natural 11-year cycle, when the sun goes from relatively calm to stormy, and then back again, according to NASA. When the sun is most active, it is full of sunspots and is called the solar maximum.
These sunspots are associated with higher levels of solar activity, often an indicator of possible solar flares or coronal mass ejections. These explosions spew matter into space, which interacts with Earth and causes the aurora borealis.
Scientists have Solar activity is expected to peak in July 2025. As this approaches, more intense and widespread aurorae will occur across the country.
To track when and how far geomagnetic storms occur, NOAA Short term forecasts work With the location and intensity of the Northern Lights updated several times a day.
the The Geophysical Institute is out of the University of Alaska Fairbanks It also provides detailed predictions and explanations about the Northern Lights.
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