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Northern Lights Spectacle: Iowa, Nebraska, and New York Anticipate Stunning Show Sunday Night

Northern Lights – Grafton, Iowa, USA | Rita Daniels

According to a NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center advisory, parts of the Midwest and Northeast states could be able to see the northern lights on Sunday night.

If conditions allow, anyone as far south as Nebraska and central Iowa could be able to view the aurora borealis, according to Prediction Center forecasts. Strong geomagnetic storms caused by solar coronal mass ejections have an impact on the lights’ growth.

Coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, are defined by NASA as “huge bubbles of coronal plasma threaded by intense magnetic field lines that are ejected from the sun over the course of several hours.” The space agency also notes that CMEs can be caused by solar flares, which are explosions on the surface of the sun. They frequently resemble “huge, twisted rope.”

On Monday, the astral occurrence’s view line is expected to recede as the southernmost portion of the line is expected to cut central Minnesota, according to predictions.

The Prediction Center said in a release that the general public did not need to be concerned about the increase in geomagnetic activity but did notify infrastructure operators to “take action to mitigate possible impacts.”

The release also said that there may be some possible technological effects on the power grid and spacecraft.

On Sunday morning, the lights appeared in the Northwest and other parts of the country as a precursor. Weather watchers photographed the lights in Wyoming and Washington.

However, Sunday could not be the only day when the weather is favorable to see the aurora borealis in the southern sky.

Forecasters from NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center said on Friday that they believe the solar forces responsible for the breathtaking sky phenomenon will peak at a more powerful level next year than previously anticipated.

The prediction center released a statement stating, “Solar activity will increase more quickly and peak at a higher level than that predicted by an expert panel in December 2019.” “According to the revised forecast, Solar Cycle 25 will peak in January or October of 2024.

Solar cycles

The Space Weather Prediction Center scientists at NOAA said on Friday that the solar forces responsible for the breathtaking sky phenomenon are expected to peak next year, and at a more powerful level than previously believed.

The worrying aspect of increased solar activity, however, goes hand in hand with the good news about the possible uptick in aurora sightings next year. According to the prediction center, it can interfere with GPS signals, degrade the electrical grid, increase orbital drag on satellites, and pose a radiation risk to astronauts and airline crews.

According to the forecast center, stronger solar cycles result in more intense solar storms, which increases the risk to these vital technologies and services.

Solar cycles monitor the sun, our closest star, and its degree of activity. Although the number of sunspots rises and falls over a cycle, other space weather phenomena such as radio emissions, coronal mass ejections, and solar flares can also occur at the same time.

“The sun has an 11-year cycle where it goes through maximum and minimum,” Michigan State University’s Abrams Planetarium director Shannon Schmoll recently told USA TODAY. “This results in the number of sunspots seen on the sun. Sunspots result from areas of the sun that have stronger magnetic fields.”

Scientists refer to the sun’s 11-year cycle fluctuation as the rather regular cycle in which the number of sunspots on its surface varies. Every eleven years, sunspot activity peaks, which in turn causes auroral activity to peak.

According to NASA, scientists monitor the advancement of the solar cycle using sunspots. The black patches on the sun are linked to solar activity; they are frequently the starting points of enormous explosions that may shoot light, energy, and solar material into space, such as solar flares or coronal mass ejections.

“This material and radiation are what interact with the Earth, resulting in aurora,” Schmoll stated.

Experts currently predict that the upcoming solar cycle (25) will be more powerful than the preceding one (24). According to a 2019 estimate, Solar Cycle 25 will be weak and peak in July 2025.

The weakest solar cycle in a century was cycle number 24. Even though NOAA’s latest projection is higher than both the panel and Solar Cycle 24, the power of Solar Cycle 25 would still be below normal.

On Saturday, millions of Americans may be able to see a breathtaking solar eclipse, in which the moon crosses in front of the sun and momentarily darkens the sky across a large portion of the nation. However, analysts claim that a far more spectacular complete eclipse that crosses a significant chunk of the nation in April will be the true show-stopper.

The fact that the complete solar eclipse that will be viewable from the United States on April 8, 2024, will occur close to the cycle maximum is also excellent news for eclipse spectators, according to NOAA. “The sun may put on a good show, with a particularly impressive corona—the extended outer atmosphere of the sun that is only visible during an eclipse.”