Northern Lights could be visible in Michigan this week: When, how to look for them

Northern Lights over Mackinac Bridge on May 6, 2018. (Dustin Dilworth/D3 Imagery)

Michiganders could catch a glimpse of the Northern Lights this week.

The National Weather Service reports that recent space weather activity suggests potential for Northern Lights viewings across Michigan on Wednesday night through Friday, so Aug. 17-19.

But Thursday, Aug. 18, looks like the best chance with a G3 geomagnetic storm watch. We’re looking at some great sky viewing weather to finish the workweek, so keep an eye on the sky for some dancing colors.

Some tips:

  • Look north! The aurora will likely be on the horizon but higher in the sky the further north you are.
  • Dim the lights: Find an area with less light pollution for your best chance.
Northern Lights forecast from National Weather Service on Aug. 17, 2022. (NWS Grand Rapids)

A geomagnetic storm is a major disturbance of Earth’s magnetosphere that occurs when there is a very efficient exchange of energy from the solar wind into the space environment surrounding Earth. These storms result from variations in the solar wind that produces major changes in the currents, plasmas, and fields in Earth’s magnetosphere.

The solar wind conditions that are effective for creating geomagnetic storms are sustained (for several to many hours) periods of high-speed solar wind, and most importantly, a southward directed solar wind magnetic field (opposite the direction of Earth’s field) at the dayside of the magnetosphere. This condition is effective for transferring energy from the solar wind into Earth’s magnetosphere.

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.

Catch a photo of the lights? Post it to Local 4′s PINS app here and we’ll show them on TV.


About the Author:

Ken Haddad is the digital content and audience manager for WDIV / ClickOnDetroit.com. He also authors the Morning Report Newsletter and various other newsletters. He's been with WDIV since 2013. He enjoys suffering through Lions games on Sundays in the fall.