What's your chance of seeing the northern lights tonight? A look at Saturday's forecast (2024)

Illuminating the night sky with pink, green and gray colors, the northern lights made its appearance in the United Kingdom and the northern half of the United States on Friday. The magical phenomena could happen again tonight.

The show fascinated many onlookers as they took out their phones to capture the beauty of the night sky. On Friday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued extreme (G5) conditions across the United States. A storm of this intensity has not been seen since October 2003. The storm gained the name "Halloween Storm" and caused many power outages in Sweden and damaged transformers in South Africa, according to Earth.com.

Meteorologists have predicted that the northern lights can be visible on Saturday as well as Sunday. If you are going outside to see the northern lights, forecasters want to remind the public that their solar eclipse glasses can be used for viewing the phenomenon.

Here's what you need to know to prepare for the next viewing of the northern lights.

The northern lights:Danced across the US last night. It could happen again Saturday.

What is the cloud forecast Saturday night? Will clouds block the northern lights?

If you missed the aurora borealis Friday night, you might still catch a glimpse on Saturday or Sunday, depending on where you live.But not if clouds get in the way.

The cloud forecast for Saturday night is generally good for most of America, but some of the people who missed their chance last night due to clouds may have a similar problem Saturday, said AccuWeather senior meteorologist Tom Kines. Areas that are likely to be cloudy include New England and Mid-Atlantic regions, as well as parts of the Southern Plains, including Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado.

“Even just a few breaks in the clouds will allow the aurora to be visible,” Kines said. “There’s always hope.”

Peak visibility time Saturday night will be between 9 p.m. and midnight, with some chance until 2 a.m., Kines said. The best views will be in dark areas away from the light pollution of cities, he said, though some reported seeing the auroras Friday night from metro areas like Milwaukee and Detroit.

Sunday night, if there is any aurora to see, those in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic can rejoice, because Kines said the skies should be clearer.

Where can you see the northern lights tonight?

The Space and Weather Prediction Centeroffers an experimental forecast mapthat shows the aurora may be visible in a wide swath of the U.S. including Oregon, Nebraska, Indiana and Pennsylvania. Other states like California, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida could also see the sky light up again for an encore performance. But visibility will depend on shifting factors that include weather, pollution and cloud cover.

Below are forecast predictions for seeing the northern lights in New York, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana on Saturday.

New York

Rain and clouds are expected to damper expectations to see the aurora borealis around the Rochester, N.Y. area. Elsewhere in NY, theLower Hudson Valley could see the lights again, if weather permits.


NWS maps predicting the intensity and location of the northern lights Saturday and Sunday show the aurora will be visible in mid to northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.

Saturday and Sunday are predicted to be mostly cloudy with some rain showers and isolated thunderstorms. The NWS predicted 48% to 58% sky cover in metro Detroit from 8 p.m. Saturday to 2 a.m. Sunday. The western portion of both peninsulas are expected to have a lower cloud cover.


In the Milwaukee area, the evening is expected to bring mostly clear skies and overnight will have scattered clouds, said Tim Halbach, local meteorologist with the National Weather Service.


Those living around the Cincinnati region could be treated to the northern lights Saturday night with the NWS' Wilmington, Ohio, office forecasting dry, partly cloudy conditions. Clouds shouldn't be an issue as many Ohioans reported seeing the lights Friday despite some cloud cover.


In a telephone interview, Mike Bettwy, operations chiefof the NOAA'sSpace Weather Prediction Centerin Boulder, Co, said Indianapolis and surrounding areas might have a better chance of seeing the aurora today and Sunday.

They can expect clear skies tonight, Bettwy said.

"The aurora itself might be actually a little bit less active than it was last night," he told IndyStar. "I think the ability for you to see it will be better because the skies will be clearing out — at least in the Indianapolis area and that immediate vicinity."

Northern lights forecast path

If you want to get a better idea of if you will be able to see the northern lights from your state, check NOAA's aurora forecast tool,which has a 30-minute forecast window.

The auroras are a natural light display in Earth's sky that are famously best seen in high-latitude regions.

Scientist left amazed by the aurora

The aurora seen on May 10 amazed Antonella Fruscione, an astrophysicist at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. She sent photos of the lights and the April eclipse to her friends in Italy. The northern lights weren't as prominent in Italy as it was in other places.

"And I sent them the picture that I took at the solar eclipse and I said, 'Can you imagine how fortunate I was this year, one month apart, I see these two incredible spectacles of the universe,'" she recalled telling them.

The phenomena seen Friday and possibly Saturday night isn't usual, she said.

"It's a very rare occurrence, especially because last night it was really visible," Fruscione said.

That's because the Earth's magnetic activity was at a nine, the highest the index goes, coupled with the Sun being at an active peak, causing eruptions. She added the colors cannot be predicted either as it depends on how the solar energetic particles interact with oxygen and nitrogen atoms. Oxygen appears green, while nitrogen appears purple, blue or pink, she said.

"It just depends on which atoms in the atmosphere this particle interact with," Fruscione said.

She declined to predict how strong Saturday's aurora could be as it's not in her expertise, but said people make predictions all the time about space weather not just for the northern lights, but to ensure communications, space stations, astronauts and other matter in space doesn't get majorly disrupted.

Down on Earth, however, the activity is harmless to humans.

"It's completely harmless because the particles do not don't do not reach us," Fruscione said. "The reason why we see the colors is that the particle interacts with the atoms and they make these beautiful colors and that's it."

For Saturday, and any other day where chatter about the aurora borealis is high, Fruscione encouraged people to download an aurora forecasting app to their phones so they can see the colorful skies.

What are the northern lights?

What's your chance of seeing the northern lights tonight? A look at Saturday's forecast (1)

The northern lights materialize when energized particles from the sun reach Earth's upperatmosphereat speeds of up to 45 million mph,according to Space.com.Earth's magnetic fieldredirects the particles toward the poles through a process that produces a stunning display of rays, spirals and flickers that has fascinated humans for millennia.

Contributing: Eric Lagatta and Dinah Voyles Pulver, USA TODAY; Tanya Wildt, Detroit Free Press; Alex Groth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Contributing: Bebe Hodges, Cincinnati Enquirer; Contributing: Steve Howe, Rochester Democrat and Chronicle; Rockland/Westchester Journal News; Alexandria Burris, Indianapolis Star

Ahjané Forbes is a reporter on the National Trending Team at USA TODAY. Ahjané covers breaking news, car recalls, crime, health, lottery and public policy stories. Email her ataforbes@gannett.com. Follow her onInstagram,ThreadsandX (Twitter)

What's your chance of seeing the northern lights tonight? A look at Saturday's forecast (2024)


What time is best to see aurora tonight? ›

Stay up late: Auroras are often most active in the late evening to early morning hours, so plan to stay up late or wake up early for the best chance of seeing a spectacular display.

Are there more northern lights coming? ›

The phenomenon, officially called the aurora borealis, was just the latest solar event this year. This is only the beginning − solar activity is expected to peak in July 2025.

What time should I be able to see the northern lights? ›

November through to February offer the darkest skies and longer evenings for maximum sky-gazing. The strongest lights tend to appear between 9pm and 2am, though the best sightings often occur between 11pm and midnight.

How likely will I see the northern lights? ›

The Northern Lights are Mother Nature's creation and as such we can't even use historical data to predict how likely you are to witness a display. The Sun's activity varies, cloud cover varies, solar winds vary and these and other factors can all influence the likelihood of seeing the Aurora.

Which direction to look at the northern lights? ›

Ideally, the lights will be best viewed away from any light pollution, in remote areas, facing the northern horizon - north facing coasts produce some of the best viewing locations. The northern lights are most active during the Equinox and Solstice in March/April and September/October.

Where is the highest chance to see aurora? ›

In Europe the Aurora is most frequently visible in Northern Scandinavia in a band that stretches between 66°N and 69°N, which we call the Aurora Zone.

Do Northern Lights happen every night? ›

Do the Northern Lights appear every night? No, Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) don't appear nightly; their occurrence depends on solar activity, geomagnetic conditions, and atmosphere. While they can be frequent near the Arctic Circle during high solar activity, they're not consistently visible.

How many times do Northern Lights appear? ›

Fortunately, they occur frequently. "The northern lights are happening 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year," said photographer Chad Blakely, owner of the northern lights tour company Lights Over Lapland. But that doesn't mean they're easy to spot; you need to be at the right place at the right time.

What year will the Northern Lights be the brightest? ›

Planning your Northern Lights trip and want to get the best advice? As we approach another Solar maximum period, solar activity will start ramping up, and auroras should increase in frequency, peaking in 2024/2025.

How to check for northern lights? ›

The best advice for viewing aurora is to look north after dark. Just around or before midnight is an especially good time, but the northern lights can be seen in Edmonton from early evening onwards on some very active days.

How dark does it need to be to see northern lights? ›

However, some scientists argue that due to high conductivity during the daylight northern lights are present predominantly in darkness, most often between sunset and midnight, and mainly during the spring, winter, and fall months of short days and long nights.

How can I increase my chances of seeing the Northern Lights? ›

Stay up late

However, the northern lights are most likely to appear at the darkest and coldest time of night. Peak time is between 11 PM and 2AM. Most guided tours will depart after 9 PM to give you the best chances. You may be lucky to see them earlier of course, but the best viewing are often late.

Is there an aurora tonight? ›

Aurora borealis activity is currently moderately low. Weather permitting, northern lights displays could be visible directly overhead in some northern communities and visible toward the northern horizon from slightly lower northern latitudes.

What time of night is best for aurora? ›

The aurora may still be there but it is only visible when it is dark. Timing: Best aurora is usually within an hour or two of midnight (between 10 PM and 2 AM local time). These hours of active aurora expand towards evening and morning as the level of geomagnetic activity increases.

When can I see aurora in USA? ›

Best Time to See Northern Lights

While you have a chance of seeing them from September to late March or so, the northern lights are easiest to spot on clear, dark winter nights.

Does it have to be dark to see aurora? ›

The aurora often occur for a few glorious minutes at a time. A good display may last between 15 and 30 minutes, although if you're really lucky, it could extend to a couple of hours or longer. To see the Northern Lights, the sky needs to be dark and clear of any clouds.


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