The Northern Lights Might Be Visible in Boston

Astronomers predict that the phenomenon will be visible in the northeast Friday night.

The Boston area may be in for a rare but not impossible occurrence this Friday night, as astronomers are predicting that the northern lights, or the aurora borealis, will be on display.

The aurora borealis results from a solar flare directed toward Earth. For those close enough to the earth’s poles to see its effects, the flare sets off a dazzling light display. Accuweather reports that this particular flare is strong enough that it will likely be visible further south than usual, meaning New Englanders can get in on the action:

According to Astronomer Hunter Outten, the flare is ranked as an X-class, or the highest class for a solar flare. Along with the brilliant light display that may be visible to some in the northern part of the country, a flare of this magnitude could also have adverse effects on GPS, radio frequencies and cell phone and satellite reception as well.

The northern lights are the result of something known as a coronal mass ejection (CME), which is a collection of charged particles released by the sun. When those particles reach Earth’s magnetic field, they create a geomagnetic storm. There have been two major CME’s this week, according to astronomers, but it can be difficult to know whether they will produce the light display viewers hope for. We are reportedly in a peak for solar activity, prompting a boom in tourism to areas where the northern lights are more dependably on display.

Tonight, though, they show could come to you, saving you that trip to Alaska. If it does, and you’re situated correctly, you might get a stunning view. It’s good to get to a place with less light pollution, and to wait until midnight, when the sun is fully on the other side of the planet. Perhaps you’re feeling astronomically spoiled with the Supermoon this week, but hey, the sky has more than one way of lighting up, so if you get the chance, look up this Friday night.