MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- It’s hard to believe on a 7 degree day, but we actually live closer to the Equator than the North Pole (1/2 way point is near Wausau). So when talk of seeing the northern lights, aka, aurora borealis hits the news we have to temper our expectations. That being said, Wednesday night’s chance is as good as any.
Right now the sun is near the most active part of its "11-ish" year solar cycle. That means huge eruptions and CME’s (coronal mass ejections) are much more common as sunspots hurl plasma into space. One of these incredible events took place Tuesday when an archipelago of sunspots erupted with an X-class CME (X-class being the largest followed by M, C, B, and A classes).
The blast, directed straight towards earth, is expected to arrive early Thursday morning. The forecast from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks calls for auroras overhead in parts of Canada and Alaska while southeast Wisconsin could see auroras low on the northern horizon. As for the timing, CME's don't usually give us an up to the minute time of arrival, but this sounds more like a "get up early and take a look" vs. "stay up late".
Further good news for those hoping to catch a glimpse, very few clouds are in the forecast and the moon sets before 1:30am. On the other hand you’ll want to bundle up with another night/morning of sub zero temps.
Once again without a road trip to the Northwoods or Canada we may be a little too far south for a good view. But fingers crossed, with a little luck (and some warm clothes) we may be in for a luminous treat.
For the latest aurora forecast CLICK HERE
UPDATE: The CME arrived later than expected on Thursday 1/9/14 around 2pm CST. While the chance for auroras is high, cloudy skies will likely obstruct the view in southeast Wisconsin.