Minnesotans may be treated to a beautiful (and free) show Saturday night — northern lights shimmering in the skies.
An increase in solar activity could make the aurora borealis more visible across upper states across the United States, prompting excitement from aurora chasers.
“We haven’t had a decent chance for an aurora in a couple of months,” said Bob King of Duluth, an amateur astronomer and retired Duluth News Tribune photo editor. “We all get excited.”
The geomagnetic storm means the aurora may be visible Saturday afternoon in the dark northern European sky, but not in Minnesota. By nightfall here, the solar forecast is downgraded to a 5 Kp, which is the measure of magnetic activity ranging from zero to nine — the higher the number, the more likely the lights are visible.
While Saturday night’s forecast isn’t extraordinary, it does mean there’s a chance to see the aurora across Minnesota and possibly as far south as the northern parts of the Twin Cities. King said it’s also possible the aurora could hit a 6 Kp, which would mean the lights would be more visible near the metro area. His advice: Go away from any light pollution and check the dark skies after nightfall until 1 a.m. Sunday. That’s what he’ll do, driving dirt roads outside Duluth to look for a place with fewer trees and dark skies, then waiting and watching overhead.
Of course, like any weather phenomenon, it’s hard to predict when and where the elusive lights will show up. However, King said spring and fall are the best chances to see the northern lights in Minnesota.
Across the world, viewing the northern lights has become a growing attraction, with aurora-chasing tours, hotels boasting aurora views and tourists flocking to places around the globe just to see the lights.
In northern Minnesota along Lake Superior, Cook County has started touting its dark skies in the Arrowhead and the possibility of viewing the aurora there. For two years, Two Harbors has now hosted a national Aurora Summit, drawing aurora hunters from as far away as Hawaii and New York City. And in the metro, the northern lights has inspired everything from Minnesota’s Super Bowl gear to the new Allianz Field’s lights.
“It’s quite memorable,” King said. “There is a tremendous amount of excitement in photographing the aurora. People want to be out there.”