Northern lights could put on a show overnight

'Highly active' auroras may be visible in parts of Minnesota

Aurora forecast 2
Aurora forecast for 1:40 am CDT
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Space Weather Prediction Center

Heads-up Minnesota. You may be able to catch a glimpse of the northern lights overnight into Tuesday morning.

A solar flare is sending a pulse of energy toward Earth into early Tuesday. The sun’s energy may interact with Earth’s magnetic field to produce auroras overnight into the predawn hours on Tuesday.

Solar wind
Solar wind
NASA

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center has issued a geomagnetic storm watch.

A G2 (Moderate) geomagnetic storm watch has been issued for 19 September (UTC-day) due to a coronal mass ejection that was observed originating from a large filament eruption on 16 September.

The University of Alaska-Fairbanks forecast KP index values in the 5 to 6 range overnight into Tuesday. If that is verified, it could produce “highly active” auroras as far south as the Twin Cities area.

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Aurora forecast
KP index forecast
University of Alaska Fairbanks

Forecast: Auroral activity will be high(+). Weather permitting, highly active auroral displays will be visible overhead from Inuvik, Yellowknife, Rankin and Iqaluit to Vancouver, Helena, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Bay City, Toronto, Montpelier, and Charlottetown, and visible low on the horizon from Salem, Boise, Cheyenne, Lincoln, Indianapolis and Annapolis.

Keep in mind that aurora forecasts can be difficult because it’s hard to gauge just how directly the energy stream will impact Earth’s magnetosphere. It’s also hard to see the auroras with significant light pollution around large cities like the Twin Cities area.

Where to look

A few clouds will stream across parts of Minnesota overnight, but many areas will see several hours of clear skies. Here’s the low-level cloud output from midnight from NOAA’s NAM 3 km resolution forecast model.

NOAA NAM 3 km model
North American Mesoscale 3 km model low cloud forecast at midnight
NOAA, via Tropical Tidbits

The best viewing chances will be away from city lights with a dark northern horizon. Areas north and west of the Twin Cities will have the best odds of getting a good aurora show overnight into early Tuesday morning.

The website SpaceWeather.com has a nice aurora gallery to track photos from places that are getting good aurora shows.

Happy aurora chasing and good luck!