Northern lights may be visible in New England during potential "severe geomagnetic storm"

Next Weather: WBZ evening forecast for November 30

BOSTON - The northern lights are, by far, one of the most beautiful AND elusive phenomena in our nighttime sky.

If you have been lucky enough to catch a glimpse, it is something you never forget.  

I have written dozens of blogs like this one, alerting you all to the chance of seeing an aurora and, most of the time, it ends in disappointment.  

Having said that, later this week, we may have a somewhat rare and unique opportunity to see the northern lights in parts of New England.

WBZ-TV graphic CBS Boston

What causes the northern lights to appear?

On Tuesday, a solar flare caused three separate "coronal mass ejections" on the surface of the sun, creating a rather rare "halo CME". A coronal mass ejection is a fancy way of describing a sudden burst of charged particles from the sun, heading outwards at speeds nearing 2,000 miles per second.  

The ejection that occurred Tuesday came from a sunspot that was facing directly at Earth. Scientists are calling for the potential of a "severe geomagnetic storm" here on Earth when these particles arrive later this week.

The devil remains in the details. . . predicting the ferocity of an auroral event days in advance is difficult. Given that there were multiple ejections, scientists believe that this could lead to something called a "cannibal CME". Essentially one big wave swallowing up and combining with some smaller ones, creating the potential for a bigger event. If this occurs, we could see a G3 or G4 class geomagnetic storm, something much less common (most of these events are rated lower, G1 or G2). It is when we get a G3 or G4 sized event that the mid-latitudes (including where we live) have the best chance at seeing an aurora.

WBZ-TV graphic CBS Boston

When could we see the northern lights in New England?

The peak of the storm is currently forecast to reach Earth during Friday morning. So, our best chance at seeing anything will likely come overnight Thursday night, when skies conditions should be relatively clear. After that, clouds and rain enter the picture by Friday afternoon and evening.

Again, having said all of this, the odds still remain low that YOU will see much of anything Thursday night. If you want to increase your odds there are a few things you can do:

- Get as far away from any artificial light as possible. . . find the darkest night sky you can!

- Find a location with a clear, unobstructed view to the northern horizon

- Remain patient and stay tuned to updated forecasts

As always, if you are able to grab any pictures or video, we would love to see them and share on WBZ! Send them to

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