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HEADS UP: Chance to see the Northern Lights in Montana this weekend

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Posted at 7:35 AM, May 10, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-10 09:35:04-04

MISSOULA — Heads up Montana - the Space Weather Prediction Center says that a strong geomagnetic storm may create opportunities to see the Aurora Borealis this weekend.

The SWPC is a branch of NOAA that tracks storms in within our solar system. For this upcoming weekend, a G4 watch was issued, which is a rare call. A G4 severe watch has not been issued since January 2005, over 19 years ago.

Here's a breakdown of why the center made this call:

WHAT - "Several CMEs will quite likely reach Earth and lead to elevated geomagnetic activity."
EVENT - "A coronal mass ejection (CME) is an eruption of solar material. When they arrive at Earth, a geomagnetic storm can result."
WHY - "Watches at this level are very rare."
TIMING - "The CMEs are anticipated to merge and arrive at Earth by late on Friday, May 10th or early on Saturday, May 11th."
EFFECTS - "The Aurora may become visible over much of the northern half of the country, maybe as far south to Alabama or northern California."

Basically, Montanans have a better chance to see the Northern Lights between the period of late Friday night - early Saturday morning. There may even be a chance between Saturday night - Sunday morning as well.

The G4 number is subject to change though, so if you want to see the lights, continue to check the SPWC forecast at these sites:

Some general viewing tips if you want to try your luck at seeing the Aurora include heading/looking north to an area with low light pollution and viewing between the hours of 12 AM - 3 AM.
Also, there are many local Aurora Borealis spotter groups on Facebook also that can help guide Montanans once the viewing time draws closer.

Cloud coverage will be minimal this weekend at night, making it easier to spot the lights!