Where you can see northern lights Sunday night from another solar storm (2024)

If you missed the recent auroras over the past two days, you may have another chance. The sun will continue to send more activity to Earth on Sunday night and early this week.

Fast eruptions from the sun are expected to slam into Earth on Sunday night and Monday morning, triggering another round of geomagnetic storms, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Sunday is predicted to offer the best chance for aurora-chasing before this round of solar activity diminishes.

After predicting geomagnetic storms of level G4 or G5 — the most intense rating — on Sunday morning, NOAA downgraded the forecast to G3, meaning less likelihood for a repeat of Friday night, when storms brought aurora sightings down to Florida and Mexico.

Activity is expected to wane by the pre-dawn hours of Monday, although storm levels are still predicted to reach moderate (G2) to strong (G3). Auroras could be spotted as far south as Iowa and Washington state with the naked eye, but cameras could capture the dancing lights farther south.

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By Tuesday morning, NOAA forecasts that geomagnetic storm activity will diminish to minor levels (G1). During a minor storm, only higher latitudes such as northern Michigan or Maine typically see auroras.

Will there be clouds in my area?

In the Northeast, people may struggle to see the aurora through clouds on Sunday night, although some breaks are possible toward Monday morning. Unfortunately, clouds will blanket much of the area Monday night to Tuesday morning.

In the Mid-Atlantic, the skies will be mostly clear from Sunday night into Monday, providing promising views from West Virginia to South Carolina. Heavy cloud cover moves in over the region on Monday night into Tuesday morning.

The southern United States (from Georgia to western Texas) will be largely covered in clouds from late Sunday night to Tuesday morning.

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The West Coast and northern Plains should have primarily clear skies from Sunday night to Tuesday morning.

If your region has a cloudy forecast over the next few days, don’t necessarily fret. Sometimes breaks emerge in the cloud canopy. And while clouds will make it harder to see the northern lights, sometimes they also make for interesting photos.

Will you be able to see the northern lights around D.C.?

It is unlikely that auroras will be visible Sunday night in the D.C. region, according to NOAA’s 7:15 p.m. update.

Washingtonians had a brief window during which to see auroras early Saturday morning. But there were too many clouds and the geomagnetic storm wasn’t quite strong enough for northern lights to be seen Saturday night into Sunday morning — although auroras were reported in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains at 10:30 p.m. and about 12:30 a.m., as well as in the mountains to the west.

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You will improve your chances of seeing the aurora borealis significantly by finding an observing location away from city lights (this advice applies to any population center). Also, the lights — if they appear — may be rather faint and only visible through your camera lens, which is more sensitive to light than your eyes. Look to the north to try to find them.

Where has the aurora already been seen this weekend?

The geomagnetic activity over the past few days has been one for the books, producing once-in-a-lifetime or once-in-a-generation aurora displays.

The weekend began strong with an extreme (G5) storm on Friday into Saturday morning. One space weather physicist collected aurora observations on X from every state in the United States, and from much of the Northern Hemisphere — including rare places like Italy, Austria, London, Mexico and India. Auroras were even spotted in tropical locations, including Puerto Rico and the Bahamas.

In the Southern Hemisphere, the lights — known as the aurora australis — were photographed in Chile, Argentina, New Zealand and Australia.

Although activity decreased Saturday night, storm levels still briefly reached into strong (G3) to severe (G4) levels. At its peak, people were able to snap aurora pictures in the mountains of Virginia.

Were any satellite or power grid operations affected?

Intense geomagnetic storms can disrupt satellite, GPS and power grid operations. After Friday’s storm, NOAA received reports of issues on some power grids and high-frequency radio and GPS communications.

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The last time a G5 storm hit was in 2003. That one also brought widespread auroras and some power interruptions in certain regions of the globe.

Why has there been so much auroral activity recently?

The slew of auroral activity stems from a particularly bustling area on the sun known as active region 3664. The region — measuring about 17 times the diameter of Earth — is marked with a cluster of dark splotches, known as sunspots. Sunspots are areas on the sun’s surface where its magnetic field is much higher than anywhere else on the sun. These magnetically complex regions are often the source of large, explosive bursts on the sun.

So cool. On Saturday morning, CWG reader David Abbou took this video of the giant sunspot facing Earth (which you can see with solar eclipse glasses) and which has been responsible for the solar storms and northern lights. As he was recording, an airplane photobombed the shot! pic.twitter.com/N52dCzwjn5

— Capital Weather Gang (@capitalweather) May 12, 2024

Last week, the sunspot group launched multiple eruptions from its surface — called coronal mass ejections — toward Earth. Coronal mass ejections are large clouds of solar energy and magnetized plasma that can temporarily disturb Earth’s magnetosphere, if aimed correctly. Some solar particles travel along Earth’s magnetic field into our upper atmosphere, exciting molecules and releasing photons of light, or the aurora.

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Geomagnetic activity from this sunspot group will last until around Tuesday, then the sunspot group will rotate away from Earth’s view. If it rotates all the way around the sun and faces back to Earth in several weeks, it could send additional activity our way. However, most sunspot groups weaken on second appearance.

NOAA scientists continually monitor the sun and are tracking any potential activity from other sunspot groups.

Jason Samenow contributed to this report.

Where you can see northern lights Sunday night from another solar storm (2024)
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