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Maps of northern lights forecast show where millions in U.S. could see aurora borealis this weekend

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Americans as far south as Alabama and Northern California could be treated to a show of the northern lights this weekend from a powerful geomagnetic storm heading toward Earth, officials said. If the weather conditions are right, people in wider areas on the map could look up and see the aurora borealis.

The storm has prompted government forecasters to warn of potential disruptions to communications systems, the power grid and satellite operations, but it could also put on a fantastic light display in the night sky.

“If you happen to be in an area where it’s dark and cloud free and relatively unpolluted by light, you may get to see a fairly impressive aurora display, and that’s really the gift from space weather, is the aurora,” Rob Steenburgh, a space scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center, told reporters Friday morning.

Northern lights map for Friday night

A map from the center shows the aurora may be visible for much of the northern half of the U.S. Friday night. A red line on the map shows how far south the aurora forecast goes.

A map from the Space Weather Prediction Center shows the aurora forecast for the U.S. on May 10, 2024.

Space Weather Prediction Center


The National Weather Service’s St. Louis office said people in the area should leave the city for the best possible chance to view the northern lights.

“Get away from city lights into a dark, rural surrounding and look north,” the office said on social media. “Aside from some clouds associated with a passing front, much of the time looks mostly clear.”

The prediction center notes on its website that people don’t need to be directly underneath the aurora to see it. Instead, it can be observed from as much as 620 miles away.

auraora-nationview.png

CBS News


The weather service’s office for the San Francisco Bay Area was less optimistic when asked if there was a chance for a nighttime show there.

“Probably not, but I’ll still look up while walking my dog,” the office said.

Northern lights map for Saturday night

Friday night isn’t the only opportunity for a northern lights show. The storm was expected to last through the weekend, and the prediction center released a forecast map for Saturday night.

A map from the Space Weather Prediction Center shows the aurora forecast for the U.S. on May 11, 2024.
A map from the Space Weather Prediction Center shows the aurora forecast for the U.S. on May 11, 2024.

Space Weather Prediction Center


Officials said people in the southern U.S. who can’t see the aurora with their naked eyes could still take some dazzling pictures with their phones.

“Cellphones are much better than our eyes at capturing light,” the Space Weather Prediction Center’s Brent Gordon told reporters Friday. “Just go out your back door and take a picture with a newer cellphone, and you’d be amazed at what you see in that picture versus what you see with your eyes.”

Stunning photos showed the vivid display of the northern lights over Europe and the U.K. after nightfall there on Friday.

Northern lights shine in the night sky
Light green and slightly reddish auroras glow in the night sky in East Brandenburg, Germany, on May 10, 2024. The northern lights (aurora borealis) are produced by a cloud of electrically charged particles from a solar storm in the earth’s atmosphere. 

Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images


The aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights, glow on the horizon
The aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights, glow on the horizon over Basingstoke in Hampshire, England, May 10, 2024.

Andrew Matthews/PA Images via Getty Images


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