• The WTF Files

Will northern lights be visible from Oregon this week?

PORTLAND, Ore — There’s been a lot of chatter about the possibility of seeing the northern lights in Oregon Wednesday and Thursday. Here’s the deal:

There was a big solar flare direct towards earth a couple of days ago. It sent out a blast of energy called a CME, which stands for Coronal Mass Ejection.

That energy is reaching earth Wednesday, and if it’s oriented correctly, it excites the Earth’s magnetic field and make sit shimmer and glow. That is the northern lights. It takes a lot of excitement to make the “Auroral Oval,” the ring of lights around the north pole, big enough to be seen this far south.

The Space Weather Prediction Center, yes, that’s a thing, has issued a Geomagnetic Storm Watch until late Thursday for this event. So that gets attention. But the aurora is really difficult to forecast. So we have to wait and see. It’s possible this CME is strong enough to excite the aurora enough to be seen this far south, but it’s FAR from certain.

The sun is coming out of a period of little to no sunspot activity called the solar minimum. As the sun produces more sunspots and therefore more solar flares, our potential for more northern light opportunities will increase in the months ahead.

I you want to try and catch a glimce of the show. Look north around and after midnight and get out of the thick fog that’s forming in the valleys Wednesday night. You need a clear sky. And you absolutely have to get away from city lights. Light pollution will drown out the aurora if it’s visible.

Dress warmly, And enjoy the radiation show!