Aurora borealis may light up northern US skies

Thanks to a large solar flare, the Northern Lights may put on a beautiful show in the skies during the Halloween weekend for some U.S. residents.

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The flare, which erupted Thursday and is expected to reach Earth on Saturday, could cause the aurora borealis to be visible across the northern parts of the country and also Europe, The Washington Post reported.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado, issued a G3, or “strong” geomagnetic storm watch for the weekend, CNN reported. The scale for geomagnetic storms begins at G1, or minor storms, and tops off at G5, an extreme storm.

A G3 storm can produce displays of the Northern Lights visible as far south as Pennsylvania, Iowa and Oregon, according to the Post. According to a forecast from the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute Aurora Forecast, the Northern Lights could be visible from Portland, Oregon to New York City, weather permitting, CNN reported. It also may be visible on the horizon as far south as Oklahoma City and Raleigh, North Carolina.

Solar flares come from sunspots off the surface of the sun, the Post reported. When a solar flare occurs, X-rays and other high-energy particles are thrown outward in all directions, according to the newspaper.

Thursday’s solar flare came from NOAA active region 2887, a large sunspot group mapped by scientists, the Post reported.

For the best chance to see the colorful lights, find an area that offers an unobstructed view over the northern horizon, according to the newspaper.