Northern lights could flare up if you’re lucky

Mount Adams aurora
Northern lights shine over Mount Adams in a Sept. 27 image. ( via Brenda Turnbull)

The chances of seeing the northern lights are higher for the next couple of nights, but Western Washington’s trademark fall weather could cloud things over.


We’re talking about two types of weather here: The space weather side of the equation, relating to geomagnetic storms sparked by the solar wind, looks promising. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center says there’s a heightened chance of minor (G1) to moderate (G2) storms tonight and on Wednesday night.

Wednesday night’s space weather forecast suggests an aurora should be visible across the northern tier of the United States.

However, the atmospheric weather side of the equation plays a role as well. National Weather Service’s Seattle office notes that clouds will be approaching Western Washington after midnight.

Get the full story on GeekWire.


Aurora gives glowing sendoff to Seattle summer

Northern lights
Northern lights glow in a time-exposure photo with star trails. (NWS Seattle Photo via Twitter)

Seattle’s final fling with hot weather featured a celestial fireworks show on Sept. 27, in the form of an auroral display that benefited from clear skies as well as a strong geomagnetic storm.

The northern lights were pumped up by a wave of electrically charged particles thrown off by the sun a couple of days earlier — a phenomenon technically known as a coronal hole high-speed stream. reported that heightened auroras were spotted along the northern tier of the U.S., including Washington as well as Montana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and Michigan.

Seattle’s auroral glow might have seemed faint to the naked eye, but long-exposure photography brought out shimmering colors.

See the pictures and video on GeekWire.


Solar storms could light up smoky skies

Solar flare
An extreme ultraviolet image of the sun, captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, shows an X9.3 flare erupting at lower right. (NASA / Goddard / SDO Photo)

The sun has been acting up this week, and normally that would produce auroral displays bright enough to see in Washington state.

But this isn’t a normal week: Western skies have been obscured by wildfire smoke, and although westerly winds are expected to push out a lot of that smoke overnight in the Seattle area, it’s debatable whether northern lights will be visible.

Get the full story on GeekWire.


Webcams spot ‘aurora that nearly got away’

Aurora over Mount Adams
The colors of the aurora glow above Mount Adams in a webcam photo. ( Photo)

You may not have been able to see the northern lights that arced over Western Washington and other northern regions of the U.S. early this morning, but your camera might have caught it.

Space weather forecasters said there was a heightened chance of auroral displays over the weekend, due to a storm of electrically charged particles that the sun shot in our direction a couple of days earlier.

Aurora-watchers in Canada and the Upper Midwest came up with spectacular  pictures  overnight, but the effect was more hit-or-miss in Washington state.

The best strategy is to set a digital camera on a tripod for a long, long exposure – long enough to capture stars in the frame.

That’s why the webcam, set up south of the mountain in Trout Lake, Wash., got such great shots.

See more pictures on GeekWire.


Solar storm heightens outlook for aurora

Aurora over Seattle
The northern lights shine above Seattle’s Space Needle and Queen Anne Hill in a photo captured by Tim Durkan from West Seattle in May. (Tim Durkan Photo)

What could make a summer weekend with clear skies even more perfect? How about the northern lights?

The chances of seeing auroral displays are better than usual tonight and Sunday night. That’s due to a geomagnetic storm that’s expected to sweep past Earth this weekend.

The storm was spawned on July 13 by an outburst of electrically charged particles from the sun, known as a coronal mass ejection or CME. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center says the outburst is directed at Earth, and the peak of the wave should arrive sometime on Sunday.

The most violent outbursts have been known to disrupt satellite communications and power grids, but this one is expected to be merely moderate to strong – producing heightened auroras but no big disruptions.

For most people, the big questions are: Can I see the aurora? And if so, where and when?

Get the answers on GeekWire.


Relive Seattle’s night of the northern lights

Image: Seattle aurora
Photographer Tim Durkan’s picture of the Seattle skyline features the northern lights as well as the Space Needle. (Credit: Tim Durkan)

Seattle isn’t as much of a hot spot for the northern lights as, say, Alaska or Sweden – but this weekend, the Emerald City had its chance to bask in a green auroral glow. And fortunately, photographers and videographers were on the scene to take advantage.

Skywatchers benefited from a strong geomagnetic storm that swept past Earth’s magnetic field starting on the night of May 7. The G3-class “Mother’s Day Storms” sparked northern lights that could be seen as far south as Arkansas, as well as southern lights that lit up research bases in Antarctica. Seattleites benefited from clear skies just as the storm was hitting its peak.

“As I live and breathe, I never thought I’d see the aurora borealis dancing above the Emerald City with my naked eye like I did tonight,” photographer Tim Durkan wrote in a Facebook posting early May 8. “I’m sitting here in my Subaru at 02:30 and still giddy with delight – it’s moments like these I live for!”

See more pictures on GeekWire.