No sky show here tonight

January 9, 2014

I was excited this morning to read that I might finally have a chance to see the northern lights tonight. Predictions were that they might be visible even in Iowa, and according to one map we’re right at the border of where “poor” shades into “fair” chances to see them.

Trees and light pollution would probably make viewing conditions in our neighborhood shift us back into the “poor” range, but if the weather was good I’d be willing to drive somewhere for a chance to finally see the aurora borealis. The sky is currently overcast, however, with no likelihood of it getting any better (instead the cloud cover will increase until it starts raining sometime tomorrow).

At least I can look at photos online, and imagine what I might be seeing if I were in someplace like Norway instead of Iowa. And I learned what causes the northern lights. I had always just thought of it as an atmospheric phenomenon, and never realized that the sun was involved.

According to the National Geographic article, the sunspot group that caused this week’s coronal mass ejection is still active, so there just may be another powerful solar blast on the way. So what are the chances it does happen, and conditions are again right for the resulting northern lights to be visible in Iowa, and it comes on a clear night (there are a few forecast next week)? I won’t be planning my schedule around it. But I can hope.