The Northern Lights are a mystical light show — and more often than not one that’s visible only in the far northern or southern reaches of the planet. However, in the late hours of Sunday evening and into the early hours of Monday, it just might be possible to catch a glimpse of the phenomenon right here in the Treasure Valley.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has issued a moderate geomagnetic storm watch for July 16-17, thanks to energy from a recent solar flare. That energy disrupts the Earth’s magnetosphere, said Amy C. Oliver, a NASA Solar System Ambassador to Utah. The disruption then sends the electrons in the atmosphere into overdrive, causing them to emit photons that we see as light — the aurora borealis, or Northern Lights.
The Treasure Valley is slightly south of NOAA’s “most likely” predicted range for the lights, but still well within the realm of possibility, Oliver said. (On the other hand, Idahoans up north are almost guaranteed a light show.)
“A G2 storm is strong enough to allow people as far South as northern Wyoming and Idaho to see the Northern Lights, although the data is still fluctuating as the ejected energy gets closer to Earth,” Oliver said in a NOAA press release.
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So what’s the best way to try to catch a glimpse of the glowing spectacle? Keep tabs on a scale called the Kp index at the NOAA website. When the Kp index is higher than 7, our area could see some of the aurora.
You’ll improve your chances even more if you’re out of the Boise area, meteorologists with the National Weather Service told the Statesman. Light pollution from the city makes all kinds of atmospheric and outer space events more difficult to observe.
Last, you’ll want to stay up a little late —the aurora will likely be visible from sunset (9:23 p.m. in Boise on Sunday) until about 2 a.m. If you happen to catch a glimpse, share your photos with us by sending them to firstname.lastname@example.org