To see, or not to see the Northern Lights Saturday night

There is a lot of chatter about the chance of seeing the Aurora Borealis, also know as the Northern Lights, over central Indiana Saturday night. The latest Aurora Forecast from the University of Alaska – Fairbanks suggest the lights could be seen as far south as central Indiana, northern Kentucky and northern Virginia.

Aurora Forecast from the University of Alaska – Fairbanks.

The colors seen in the sky are the results of electrons colliding with the upper-levels of the Earth’s atmosphere. The electrons follow the Earth’s magnetic field to the polar regions and collide with oxygen atoms, nitrogen atoms and molecules in the upper atmosphere.

The electrons arriving to Earth today and tonight are the result of a “Coronal Mass Ejection” that occurred from a solar flare on the Sun that happened at 7:18 a.m. Wednesday. Because of the CME, NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center has issued a moderate geomagnetic storm watch.

Probability of visible aurora from the Space Weather Prediction Center.

The latest forecast model suggests the highest probability of seeing the aurora will be in central Canada. However, the University of Alaska suggests we may be able to see the aurora low on the horizon tonight. The best chance to see any lights along the horizon looks to be between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. EDT.

One problem… Mother Nature may not help.

A weather system located in the central Plains is sending clouds towards central Indiana. They are expected to start moving overhead Saturday evening. Along with clouds, scattered showers will be possible overnight.

Satellite and Radar imagery – Saturday afternoon.

This is a look at forecast weather conditions at 1 a.m. Sunday from a computer model. It shows the temperature, wind speed, wind direction, cloud cover, and percentage of cloud cover (orange triangle).

Forecast sky cover, temperatures and wind conditions at 1 a.m. Sunday.

Unfortunately, skies are not likely to be clear which will make it difficult to see the lights. In fact, overcast skies are projected in Indianapolis starting at midnight. Areas further north and northeast may have a slightly better chance seeing the Northern Lights.

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