Second chance for Northern Lights tonight in Michigan: Here’s the update

Not enough ‘oomph’ to push aurora borealis southward on Wednesday, but another chance Thursday night

DETROIT – It appears that the Northern Lights (aurora borealis) didn’t get this far south Wednesday night to be visible in southern Michigan.

  • See spectacular actual video of the solar flare that gave us this chance to see the aurora borealis above.
  • Thursday afternoon update: The Space Weather Prediction Center just posted an update saying it’s weaker than anticipated -- so they’ve downgraded the G3 watch to a G1 watch for Thursday and Friday. Translation: We probably won’t see anything here in lower Michigan. The UP might, but our chances look pretty slim down here.

Earth’s magnetic field received the sudden impulse of accelerated charged particles from the sun at around 10 p.m., but the Planetary K Index, which scientists use to assess the disruption to our magnetic field and was forecast to be a 7 on the 0-to-9 scale, only ended up being a 4.

Translation: There wasn’t enough “oomph” to push that ring of Northern Lights down to southern Michigan.

We have a second chance Thursday evening from roughly 10 p.m. through 1 a.m. Friday, but the K Index is only forecasted to be a 6, so chances are slimmer. However the thing to remember is that the Wednesday night forecast was off and, if tonight’s K Index forecast also is off -- but in the other direction -- then we have a chance.

So if you’re out late this evening, face north and, if you see a greenish or grayish abnormal glow to the sky, then maybe you’re seeing the northern lights!

What are the Northern Lights?

The bright dancing lights of the aurora are actually collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere. The lights are seen above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres.

They are known as “aurora borealis’ in the north and “aurora australis” in the south. Auroral displays appear in many colors although pale green and pink are the most common. Shades of red, yellow, green, blue, and violet have been reported.

The lights appear in many forms from patches or scattered clouds of light to streamers, arcs, rippling curtains or shooting rays that light up the sky with an eerie glow.

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