Northern lights may glow over Canada, northern US Wednesday night following solar storm

A minor solar storm may cause the aurora to dance across the sky in Canada and far northern United States into Wednesday night.

Some people were able to see the northern lights, or aurora borealis, on Monday night and Tuesday night as the first part of the solar storm responsible for the lights reached Earth.

More of the same is in the offing for Wednesday night before the solar storm weakens and the vibrant aurora begins to fade.

Although this will not be a major event, the aurora should still be visible across much of Canada and the far northern United States on Wednesday night where the sky is clear.

Folks as far south as Maine, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the northern Plains may be able to see the aurora in areas away from cities where light pollution is minimal.

However, if the solar storm is stronger than anticipated, the lights may be able to be seen in areas a bit farther south, such as upstate New York, Iowa and Washington.

Some people in the northern United Kingdom may also be able to catch a glimpse of the northern lights as long as the weather cooperates.

Mother Nature's light show will also be visible for those in the Southern Hemisphere with the southern lights, or aurora australis, glowing in the sky over southern New Zealand and Tasmania.

Photos of the phenomenon: 

General aurora borealis, auroras, Northern Lights
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General aurora borealis, auroras, Northern Lights
Photo workshop, learning how to photograph the Northern Lights in the arctic winter. Geothermal Hot spring area, Hverarond, Iceland
Person enjoying the Northern lights over geothermal hot spring area, Hverarond, Iceland
Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis, shining bright in the arctic winter, Iceland.
Canada, Nunavut, Territory, Aurora borealis glows in night sky above C-Dory expedition boat in Roes Welcome Sound in northern Hudson Bay
Person viewing the Northern lights over the lava landscape, Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland
Colorful Auroras and Stars by the Fljotsdalur valley, Iceland
The Aurora Borealis bright up the sky at twilight on March 17, 2013 between the towns of Are and Ostersund, Sweden. AFP PHOTO/JONATHAN NACKSTRAND (Photo credit should read JONATHAN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images)
An Aurora borealis is pictured near the city of Tromsoe, northern Norway, late on January 24, 2012. AFP PHOTO / Scanpix / Rune Stoltz Bertinussen NORWAY OUT (Photo credit should read Rune Stoltz Bertinussen/AFP/Getty Images)
OSTBY, SWEDEN: A display of Aurora Borealis, northern lights, in Ostby, 19 August 2006. The northern lights occur in a circular band around the geomagnetic north pole, otherwise known as the northern lights oval. It is a result of the atmosphere shielding the earth against solar particles which would otherwise make the planet uninhabitable. On their way down towards the geomagnetic poles, the solar particles are stopped by Earth's atmosphere, which acts as an effective shield against these deadly particles. When the solar particles are stopped by the atmosphere, they collide with the atmospheric gases present, and the collision energy between the solar particle and the gas molecule is emitted as a photon - a light particle. And when you have many such collisions, you have an aurora - lights that may seem to move across the sky. AFP PHOTO / SVEN NACKSTRAND (Photo credit should read SVEN NACKSTRAND/AFP/Getty Images)
KANGERLUSSUAQ, GREENLAND - SEPTEMBER 02: (ISRAEL OUT) The Aurora Borealis glows over a lake September 02, 2007, near the Greenland town of Kangerlussuaq. The Northern Lights most often occurs from September to October and from March to April and are a popular tourist attraction. (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)
The magnetic solar storm arranged a colourful show of aurora borealis in the night skies of Hyvinka in Southern Finland early morning, 31 October 2003. AFP PHOTO/LEHTIKUVA /PEKKA SAKKI / *** FINLAND OUT *** (Photo credit should read PEKKA SAKKI/AFP/Getty Images)
387304 01: UNDATED FILE PHOTO: Aurora Australis, the Southern Lights as seen from South Australia as with Aurora Borealis, are displayed during strong geomagnetic events. According to NASA March 29, 2001 the sun recently sent a powerful energy burst in the direction of Earth triggering dazzling aurora displays over nighttime skies on Friday and Saturday, NASA astronomers said. Directed toward Earth, such blasts can distort Earth's magnetic field, producing in extreme latitudes, colorful nocturnal sky displays known as auroras, or the Northern and Southern Lights. (Photo courtesy of NOAA/Newsmakers)

The solar storm sparking this week's aurora is the result of a coronal hole on the sun facing toward the Earth.

A coronal hole is a cooler, less dense region on the sun's surface where the sun's magnetic field is ‘open.' This opening allows the sun to expel a fast stream of charged particles into the solar system.

When these charged particles are directed at the Earth, the planet's magnetic field funnels them toward the poles where they collide with the atmosphere to create the colorful light displays.

Generally, these fast streams result in minor to moderate solar storms but in rare cases can lead to stronger storms, according to the Space Weather Prediction Center.

Although some stronger solar storms can impact communications and GPS, this week's event is expected to be minor and should have little to no impact on these systems.

Despite this week's solar storm not being particularly strong, it will still provide stargazers in the higher latitudes with a good opportunity to see the aurora before the summer arrives.

During the summer months, the shorter nights mean that there is less time for onlookers to view the aurora before the the light from the rising sun becomes too bright.

Additionally, some spots that are typically excellent for viewing the lights in the winter may be poor viewing locations in the summer as the sun may not even set below the horizon around the time of the summer solstice.

While the Northern Hemisphere experiences shorter nights over the coming months, the Southern Hemisphere will have longer nights, giving onlookers more opportunities for viewing the aurora.

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