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You may be able to see the Northern Lights tonight, thanks to geomagnetic storm

Northern Lights seen on Mount Washington in New Hampshire on Tuesday.Courtesy of the nonprofit Mount Washington Observatory

The Northern Lights were visible in New England Monday night, including at New Hampshire’s Mount Washington Observatory. An expert says it might be possible for New Englanders to see the celestial light show again Tuesday night due to an ongoing geomagnetic storm.

“Around 12 AM this morning, the summit crew got a chance to view the Northern Lights for a while,” the staff at the observatory, which sits atop New England’s highest peak, reported on its Twitter account Tuesday. “For this shift currently on duty, it was everyone’s first time viewing them in person.”

The posting included two photos showing the night sky with a green hue to it, the signature look of the aurora borealis.


Government scientists had predicted that the aurora borealis would be visible farther south than normal due to a geomagnetic storm caused by a coronal mass ejection from the sun.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Tuesday morning extended a space weather warning about the storm into this evening.

The agency has been warning of possible disruptions, saying the storm could cause, among other things, “weak power grid fluctuations” and have a “minor impact on satellite operations.”

The agency also noted the fun part: “Aurora may be visible at high latitudes, i.e., northern tier of the U.S. such as northern Michigan and Maine.”

Silas Laycock, an associate professor at the Center for Space Science and Technology at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, said it’s likely that any disruptions from the storm are over, but there’s still a chance to see the Northern Lights, or aurora borealis, Tuesday night, possibly even in Massachusetts.

Monday night’s Northern Lights resulted in some “spectacular pictures,” he said.

Laycock said a large sunspot on the face of the sun exploded into a solar flare over the weekend, and it was accompanied by a halo coronal mass ejection that began racing toward the Earth.


In a coronal mass ejection, he said, “A big chunk of the sun’s atmosphere is blasted out into space with great temperature and speed.” In a halo coronal mass ejection, the charged particles head straight for the Earth and appear as a halo surrounding the sun as they head toward us.

It took a couple of days for the “big blob of plasma” from the ejection to reach the earth, but it “slammed into the Earth just after midnight last night,” he said. NOAA said the storm was a “minor-moderate” one.

“These things happen every so often,” he said. “Once in a while, the Earth happens to be looking right down the barrel at one.”

Laycock said it had been a “very exciting weekend for space weather” and it had been an interesting lesson for his students who had observed the sun spot last week on special solar telescopes.

If you want to see the Northern Lights Tuesday night, look to the north after midnight, preferably somewhere with a clear horizon, like a costal area facing north, he said. It’s best if you’re away from city lights.

Laycock said he missed out on the spectacle Monday night, but he was planning to try to see the unusual phenomenon himself from the North Shore Tuesday night.

He said the lights might not be as bright as Monday, but suggested, “People should just get out and see the aurora if they have chance.”


Steve Annear of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

John R. Ellement can be reached at john.ellement@globe.com. Follow him @JREbosglobe. Martin Finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com.