Northern Lights may be visible from the Heartland Sunday night

Published: Jul. 15, 2017 at 9:51 PM CDT
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The Northern Lights could make an appearance in the Heartland Sunday night into early Monday morning! A powerful geomagnetic storm shot out from the sun a couple of days ago and should reach the Earth by Sunday night. This will interact with the magnetic field of the Earth to produce a dazzling display of northern lights for some, and a faint display on the northern horizon for those here in Nebraska and Iowa.

How does it happen? A Coronal Mass Ejection, or CME, shot out from the sun toward Earth late last week. This mass of electromagnetic energy is set to pass over the Earth Sunday evening. When a CME hits the Earth's atmosphere it triggers what is called a Geomagnetic Storm. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a branch called the Space Weather Prediction Center and it ranks the level of the geo storm based on how powerful the CME heading our way is. This one is expected to be a G2 level and possibly even a G3 level at times Sunday night.

These storms are also measured on a Kp scale from 0-9, with 9 being the strongest. We're pretty far south in Omaha which means we need a Kp rating of at least 7-8 in order to be able to see them. Right now the storm is expected to bring Kp rating of 5-7 which would give us hope of seeing at least a faint display low in the northern sky.

What do you do? Well, head outside as soon as darkness falls and look north. Of course, they will be best visible away from city lights. Long exposure cameras work the best if not able to be seen by the naked eye. Most phones actually have this feature on the camera app that comes with it, if you don’t have a fancy camera. If you go into your “pro” settings, you should be able to adjust your shutter speed.