MINNEAPOLIS – Researchers predicted that the Northern Lights would put on a rare show in nearly 20 states later this week.
Now, however, experts say the hype may not materialize. Still, skygazers may catch a glimpse as they head north on Thursday night.
Is it common to see northern lights in the summer months? WCCO asked Thaddeus LaCoursiere, the planetarium production coordinator at St. Paul’s Bell Museum.
“The aurora can occur year-round, but it’s most common to actually see it in the spring and fall months,” LaCoursiere said.
So this could potentially be a big deal – with a big emphasis on the word ‘potential’.
“The Northern Lights are incredibly difficult to predict,” he said.
LaCoursiere says it’s a bit of a shot in the dark.
“We base our information on the sun … a ball of plasma that is constantly changing. We are just beginning to understand the dynamics of the sun and how it works, how it changes,” he said.
Still, an active sun has increased our chances of seeing the aurora borealis. If conditions match this week, LaCoursiere recommends venturing outside the Twin Cities for a few hours.
“That gets you into those darker skies where you’re dealing with less light pollution, and further north where the aurora is more likely,” he said.
A light pollution map and aurora forecast will help with time and place. The most important window is often 10 p.m. to 2 a.m., although it is later with the summer daylight hours.
If you can’t get any higher, try to get to the end of a dock on a lake with an expansive view of the northern horizon.
“Depending on when you go out, you can take a lot with you,” LaCoursiere said. “Bug spray and coffee, that’s what astronomers run on!”
The WCCO NEXT Weather team says aurora forecasts are about as reliable as weather forecasts were in the 1950s.