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Michigan stargazers could see the northern lights this week

Aurora borealis
Katheryne Friske
Northern lights captured with a cell phone camera in Curtis, MI.

Michigan stargazers are in for a treat this week. The northern lights may be visible in lower Michigan the next couple nights.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has issued a geomagnetic storm watch extending past Michigan.

NOAA geomagnetic storm watch visual
Geomagnetic information issued by NOAA
Predicted middle latitude K-indices graph by date
NOAA predicted middle latitude K-indices graph by date

On Sunday August 14, the sun had two large surface eruptions. One was a coronal high speed stream and the other was coronal mass ejections. These energy releases push and distort earth’s magnetic field. In NASA models of a similar event, it looks a bit like someone's hair being blown back from the wind.

Aurora app predictions
Projections of northern lights visibility in Ann Arbor, MI, by Aurora app.

The storm is anticipated to hit in the early hours of August 18. The ability to see the aurora borealis could stretch across all of Michigan once it does. According to the Aurora app, the best chance to view the phenomenon is August 17 at 11 p.m., but chances are also high at night on August 18 and 19.

Michigan skies will be clear both nights, making viewing conditions even more favorable.

Amateur astronomers should find a dark spot with a clear view of the northern sky. Northern lights trip advisors report the Aurora is unpredictable and can be very short lived. Look for a green glow along the horizon. When it is dim, it can look like a wispy gray or white cloud so it can also be easy to miss.

It's also a good idea to take pictures. Whether you have professional equipment or a cell phone with a nice camera, use the longest exposure setting and remember to turn off the flash. This will be especially impressive if conditions aren't as vibrant or the Aurora is dim.

Katheryne Friske is an intern in the Newsroom. She has a background in vocal music and education.
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