It’s possible that the northern lights will appear in the United States again, but it’s too early to tell


Space weather forecasters say there’s a possibility of a dazzling display of the northern lights, but it’s too early to know for sure.

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BOULDER, Colo. — Space meteorologists say there could be another dazzling display of the northern lights over parts of the United States next week — though it’s too early to know for sure.

Meteorologists gave stargazers in the northern and upper Midwestern states hope of a show in the sky from Friday night into Saturday morning, but widespread sightings did not materialize.

Now forecasters are watching the cluster of sunspots responsible for the stunning aurora display across the country on May 10, which once again orbits in front of Earth. This likely creates the conditions for another scene, the federal scene Space Weather Prediction Center He said in Boulder, Colorado. Quite simply, those sunspots trigger solar storms that can lead to auroras here on Earth.

But the uncertainty over the forecast — and the overnight disappointment — shows that aurora forecasts can be accurate. Leading experts say it’s still too early to confirm whether next week’s show will happen too.

Biggest northern lights show next week? It is too early to tell.

Sometime next week, a widespread aurora may be possible, meteorologists said. It will all depend on whether or not the Sun releases a solar flare and/or coronal mass ejection towards Earth, which could trigger geomagnetic storms and thus aurora borealis.

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Although the sunspot cluster known as Area 3697 has now returned to face Earth, it is too early to say whether it will send out another coronal mass ejection, said Sean Dahl, a senior forecaster at SWPC.

“We’re predicting things from 93 million miles away, so it’s very difficult,” Dahl said. “And our knowledge is limited.” “We can do a great job of predicting whether a flare is likely to occur, and if so, what level it might reach, and the same for radiation storms, but we have no way of knowing that a flare is imminent. That science doesn’t exist, and we don’t have the science.” Enough to know when a CME will explode off the Sun.

Sky watchers have their fingers crossed

Eager skywatchers are expressing surprise because June 6 is a new moon, meaning the sky will be very dark and any twilight that appears will be more vibrant. Dahl, an amateur astronomer and night sky photographer who missed the May 10 show because he was working, said he hopes a new sunspot display will emerge.

“We have no way of knowing if it will produce a CME again, but the potential for a flare is still high in this region,” he said.

Why is space weather so difficult to predict?

When exactly will the northern lights appear again? Conditions are ripe for more aurora displays over the next few years, but experts say even the best predictions can only be made accurately a few days or even hours in advance.

Unlike terrestrial weather, scientists who predict space weather — which includes the aurora borealis — must rely on observations of the Sun, 93 million miles away, to make their predictions.

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“There are a lot of uncertainties, which makes it difficult to predict,” Bill Murtagh, program coordinator at the Space Weather Prediction Center, told USA TODAY last year.

Hughes reported from Boulder, Colorado. Cedar from Silver Spring, Maryland.

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