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'Brighter than most': Northern Lights fill Montana's sky

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Posted at 6:14 PM, Feb 27, 2023

BILLINGS — Many across Montana were witnesses to a spectacular sighting Monday morning as Northern Lights danced across the dark sky and could be seen again this week.

One Billings man, Randy Pfeifle, saw a friend post online about seeing the Aurora Borealis and decided to head outside of Laurel into the dark early morning to take some photos of the action around 5 a.m.

This wasn't his first time witnessing the aurora but it was a memorable one.

"This one was brighter than most," Pfeifle said. "For whatever reason, it showed up really well."

Northern Lights

Pfeifle and a group of other photographers plan on trying to see the lights again Monday night or Tuesday morning.

Montana Learning Center Executive Director Ryan Hannahoe says the Northern Lights are hard to forecast, but Montanans could expect to see more of them than usual due to the sun being in an "uptick of a solar cycle."

Northern Lights outside of Laurel

“That’s why you’re seeing more activity because this activity is coming from the sun…So it’s an 11-year cycle. We are on the up. It’ll peak in 2026. So, from now until 2026 you’re going to see more aurora,” Hannahoe said. “It’s probably the first in several years, here in Montana, that I’ve seen it go across the entire sky.”

Hannahoe recommends dressing warm and getting away from city lights if planning on heading out to try to see the lights.

He also recommends visiting the Space Weather Prediction Center to view the K-index, which according to the website is "used to characterize the magnitude of geomagnetic storms." Hannahoe said a value of five or above could mean a chance to see the northern lights in Montana.