How to See the Northern Lights from New York—Or Wherever You Are—This Weekend

The sky will be glowing green.

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Getty Images

I recently watched a very low-quality Hallmark movie about two people falling in love. The movie, which I can't recall the name of because it was one of those made-for-TV productions, was unspectacular in every single way. Bad acting, bad script, just really bad. But one thing abut the film really stood out to me: a scene in which the couple cozied up by a campfire and watched the Northern Lights. I'm not a nature-y gal by any means, but the mystical haze of green and purple that spread across the sky was nothing short of hypnotizing. I found myself wishing I could see it in person. This weekend, that might actually be possible.

The Northern Lights aren't typically a local phenomenon—Norway, Finland, and Alaska are the locations most likely to catch a clear view of the gorgeous glowing skies—but the combination of an abnormal geomagnetic storm and a sun explosion means that we could very well see the aurora borealis closer to home as far south as Chicago and New York on Saturday night. The lights are most visible in places with low light pollution, so if you're in the city, make sure to head out as far as possible to get a better glimpse of the show.

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Courtesy of Getty

Scientifically known as "aurora borealis," the Northern Lights are caused by collisions between electrically-charged particles released from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere and collide with gases. So that light show in the sky isn't an approaching alien invasion. It's science.

Here's the official NOAA graph for it:

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NOAA

And here's the NASA memo on the phenomenon:

The closer you are to the poles, the more often you will be able to see auroras. Certainly auroras can be seen in New York and much of the rest of the country, but in the U.S., the farther north you live, the better your chances. So whenever you're enjoying the beauty of a very dark night sky, remember to look to the north in case there is an aurora then. In the southern hemisphere, the farther south you live, the better the aurora viewing.

Got plans for Saturday? Clear your schedule. There's literally nothing cooler than this.


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