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northern lights pittsburgh pa

Northern lights pittsburgh pa

One of the really cool things about living at the end of the 20th century is that there are now solar storm watches and warnings, just like tornado watches and warnings. These predictions are quite serious, because solar storms screw up earth’s magnetic fields, messing up radio transmissions, magnetic compasses, spacecraft, and even power lines once in a while.

However, they are also fun, in that it is quite likely that if you go outside of Pittsburgh around midnight tonight, and it’s clear, you can see the northern lights (aka aurora borealis)! There is no moon, so if it’s relatively clear conditions might be good.

From this far south, you won’t be able to see color, but if you’re lucky, you should be able to see shimmery curtains of light in the northern sky. I saw them once from just north of North Park, and it was definitely spooky. If you try to see them, find a place where you can look to the north without any artificial lights in view (and not in or south of Pittsburgh if you can help it), and stay in the dark at least 20 minutes, for your eyes to adapt.

[Postscript: I was wrong about not seeing color! The display was truly awesome, and you could see red, green, and blue tints.]

To see the full text of the aurora warning: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/

Thanks to Gregg Podnar and John Pane for forwarding the alert.

Northern lights pittsburgh pa One of the really cool things about living at the end of the 20th century is that there are now solar storm watches and warnings, just like tornado watches and

Northern Lights Visible In Pittsburgh This Weekend? Not Likely

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Will the northern lights be visible in Pittsburgh this weekend?

Typically, the chances to see the Aurora Borealis is rather slim, in Southwestern PA.

Occasionally, though, there is a geomagnetic storm spurred by a solar flare on the Sun that will set the stage for the Northern Lights to be visible here.

This 19 August, 2004 NASA Solar and Heliospheric Administration (SOHO) image shows a solar flare(R) erupting from giant sunspot 649. The powerful explosion hurled a coronal mass ejection(CME) into space, but it was directed toward Earth. (Photo Credit: HO/AFP/Getty Images)

Now, the geomagnetic storm that is going to impact Earth is considered a “G2 Geomagnetic Storm”, or a “moderate” one caused by a Coronal Mass Ejection, which is big solar flare.

This sends electrons from the Sun’s surface into the Earth’s atmosphere causing the nighttime light display. This energy is measure by the KP-Index, and assigned a number from 1-9, with nine being the most significant.

For Pittsburgh to see the Northern Lights, we need to see a 7 or 8 register on this index. Current projections say this will register as a 5-6, meaning the Great Lakes would have a better shot at seeing the show.

Should the Kp-Index show numbers favorable to see the Auroras in our area, you will want to find the darkest spot possible, to avoid light pollution.

The cloud cover, this weekend, shouldn’t be an issue either. Since they are called the “Northern Lights”, I will let you guess which direction to look, should we get our chance!

Will the northern lights be visible in Pittsburgh this weekend?