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:

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.