A light show could be headed Seattle’s way. But if it does arrive, will locals be able to see it?
The short answer is “maybe.”
“For this level of event, even if there are aurora overhead, with all the city lights it would be difficult or impossible to see. You would need to get out of town,” said Terry Onsager, a physicist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center.
The “aurora” Onsager is referring to is the aurora borealis that has the potential to be seen as far south as Oregon over the evening of Dec. 30 and early morning of Dec. 31. It is possible that the Northern Lights could linger through New Year’s Eve.
Onsager said that it won’t be known exactly where the light show could be seen until the solar storm is upon us, but he recommends checking NOAA’s website that monitors where an aurora borealis can be seen.
“If the storm hits, two things will happen. That green, circle (on the website) will intensify, it will get stronger and move to lower latitudes,” he said. “Take a look at that picture and you could see, roughly, if it is in the area where you live.”
“If so, then the question is: are the skies clear? Is the moon full? Are there lots of city lights around?” he said.
A solar flare occurred on the sun on Dec. 28. That flare sent material from the sun’s atmosphere straight toward the Earth. When that material from the sun interacts with the magnetic field of the planet, it results in a light show across the sky — an aurora borealis.
But that light show is more common up north into Canada and Alaska. Seattle is on the edge of where the expected aurora borealis is likely to show, according to NOAA. Even then, if locals looking for a natural light show might want to get outside the city. Seattle’s light pollution is likely to prevent the aurora borealis from being seen.