The Northern Lights are a captivating sight in nature. Usually, they are best seen from far-off Arctic spots during cold months. However, seeing the aurora borealis might soon get easier. Sunspot counts, key for predicting Northern Lights, have gone up since last year. This trend may keep up, making the lights show up more often and in more places.
NBC News points out that each flash of the Northern Lights starts from a sunspot. The Solar Cycle 25 Prediction Panel foresees stronger Northern Lights activity in the next 18 months. This forecast holds if the upward trend goes on.
The latest model shows a steady rise in sunspot counts until fall 2024. Then, the chance of seeing a bright aurora borealis will peak. “Skywatchers are thrilled,” says Mark Miesch, a scientist at the University of Colorado – Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
The rise has opened up promising chances. Earlier this year, cities like Minneapolis, MN; Lansing, MI; and Portland, ME saw the aurora. These views were once only for Alaska and upper Canada.
Despite better odds, certain factors are key. The best time to see the aurora is near midnight, says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Staying away from city lights and light pollution is also vital.
“Auroras show our planet’s electric link to the Sun,” states NASA. “Sun energy sparks these light shows, fueled by charged bits in Earth’s magnetic field.” Hopefully, more people worldwide will find them easier to see soon.
Experts say that the increase in sunspot observations (a key predictor for the likelihood of seeing the Northern Lights) since the end of last year could continue to rise.
This suggests that the Northern Lights will not only appear more frequently but also become visible from more locations.
h/t: [Interesting Engineering]