Aurora borealis could be visible in wide swaths of continental US, Europe on Saturday because of large solar flare

A person watches Northern Lights on March 9, 2018, in Utakleiv, northern Norway, Lofoten islands, within the Arctic Circle.

A person watches Northern Lights on March 9, 2018, in Utakleiv, northern Norway, Lofoten islands, within the Arctic Circle. (Olivier Morin, AFP, Getty Images)



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ATLANTA — A large solar flare erupted Thursday and is set to reach Earth on Saturday, which could result in a strong geomagnetic storm and cause the aurora borealis, or northern lights, to be visible across the U.S. and Europe.

NOAA issued a G3, or "strong" geomagnetic storm watch, for Saturday and Sunday ahead of the flare slamming into the Earth. The scale for geomagnetic storms runs from G1, or minor storm, to G5, an extreme storm.

This geomagnetic storm could cause voltage irregularities and false alarms on some protection devices, NOAA warns. It also could cause high-frequency radio blackouts and loss of radio contact on the sunlit side of the earth.

The most visible effect from the impending geomagnetic storm is it will likely supercharge the aurora borealis, making it visible across large parts of the U.S. and Europe.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute Aurora Forecast indicates, weather permitting, the northern lights could be visible from Portland, Oregon, to New York City. It may also be visible on the horizon as far south as Carson City, Nevada; Oklahoma City; and Raleigh, North Carolina.

In Europe, the forecast shows, weather permitting, the aurora borealis may be visible overhead from across Norway, Sweden and Finland, and even as far south as Scotland and St. Petersburg, Russia.

It may be visible on the horizon as far south as Dublin, Ireland, and Hamburg, Germany.

The aurora australis, or the southern lights, will see similar effects.

The forecast shows from Melbourne, Australia to Christchurch, New Zealand, it may be visible on the horizon.

Paul P. Murphy

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