The northern lights may be coming to Oregon, Pennsylvania and Iowa. Here's what you need to know

Soldiers based at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, conduct unscheduled field maintenance under the northern lights at Donnelly Training Area, near Fort Greely, Alaska, on Sept. 15, 2017. A strong geomagnetic storm may cause the northern lights to move south to be seen in different parts of the mainland United States.

Soldiers based at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, conduct unscheduled field maintenance under the northern lights at Donnelly Training Area, near Fort Greely, Alaska, on Sept. 15, 2017. A strong geomagnetic storm may cause the northern lights to move south to be seen in different parts of the mainland United States. (Charles Bierwirth, U.S. Army Alaska via Associated Press)



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — A strong geomagnetic storm may cause the northern lights to move south to be seen in different parts of the mainland United States.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported the storm could push the lights to be visible, if weather conditions allow it, in parts of Pennsylvania, Iowa and Oregon.

CBS reported it is rare for these lights to come this far south and while it isn't something to necessarily plan on, it may be important to mention.

The storm started Sunday and is expected to peak at its highest intensity on Thursday and end Friday, according to NPR.

The sun's activity is unstable and can cause some disturbances to be so strong they can pull at the Earth's magnetic field.

"Think about surfing," said Jim Schroeder, an assistant physics professor at Wheaton College who has led research in this field. "In order to surf, you need to paddle up to the right speed for an ocean wave to pick you up and accelerate you, and we found that electrons were surfing. If they were moving with the right speed relative to the wave, they would get picked up and accelerated."

Electrons combine with nitrogen and oxygen molecules when the electrons hit the Earth's atmosphere and are sent into a state with a lot of movement. The excited electrons eventually slow down their movement and release light during that process, which is what we see as the northern lights.

NPR reported that people don't need any special equipment to see auroras. Some tips for those who are planning to see the lights include find a place to watch where there's little light pollution, check the weather beforehand for clouds and rain, watch from a spot of high elevation, and scan the skies in all directions.

Most recent U.S. stories

Related topics

U.S.Science
Madison Selcho

    SIGN UP FOR THE KSL.COM NEWSLETTER

    Catch up on the top news and features from KSL.com, sent weekly.
    By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to KSL.com's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

    KSL Weather Forecast