In what NASA officials have called a "significant solar flare," the sun let off a massive eruption Thursday that will send a huge coronal mass ejection hurtling towards the Earth and result in what is expected to be a phenomenal northern lights experience.
The charged particles from the sun will reach the Earth at an intensity strong enough to make the northern lights visible as far south as the Twin Cities and all of southern Minnesota. But it's all about timing and weather conditions.
BMTN meteorologist Sven Sundgaard says that a solar flare serves as the first sign of possible northern lights. Then if the flare aligns with the earth's magnetic field, the northern lights put on a show.
"The flare was spotted yesterday, so they’re saying tonight into tomorrow is possible. A KP index of 6 to 7 is forecast late tonight (anytime after midnight to probably an hour before sunrise, 6am) into tomorrow (that’s high: a measure of how much energy is reaching the magnetic field). When the KP (or energy) index is this high, the show is bigger, more brilliant and therefor visible this far south (which typically it’s not)."
Sven says the weather might cooperate with mainly clear skies Friday night into Saturday morning, but if the northern lights show doesn't happen until Saturday night/Sunday morning, it could be cloudier in Minnesota.
If the flare hits the magnetic field after daybreak local time Saturday, it'll mean Siberia and northern Europe get the best show.
As Sven said, "hopefully that 4-6am timeframe early tomorrow we see action."
According to SpaceWeather.com, the geomagnetic storm will give places as far south as Illinois and Oregon a chance to see the aurora, so all of Minnesota could be in for a really cool opportunity.
The best experience can be had by getting away from the city lights. There could be some fog in central Minnesota Friday night/Saturday morning and clouds are in the forecast Saturday night, so the timing might have to be just right to get a great view in Minnesota.