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Northern lights may be seen in New York tonight

Thursday, January 9, 2014
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— The Northern lights may be visible in the sky Thursday night for New Yorkers, according to Alan French, the president of the Albany Area Amateur Astronomers.

“There is no real answer to 'what time of night.' Often displays seem more frequent around midnight,” French said. “But I’ve seen displays visible just after dark. Based on the current numbers, my best guess is that it won’t be early tonight. But if folks want to catch a display, the best approach is to check the sky often.”

French said that the displays are usually low in the northwestern to northern sky, and may appear as a diffuse, gentle glow or curtains of light. An active display can sometimes show vivid colors of red and green in the sky.

“If the geometry is right, a coronal mass ejection on the Sun can send high energy particles and electromagnetic radiation toward Earth,” he said. “When it arrives, it distorts our planet’s magnetic field, which can then dump these high energy particles into our upper atmosphere where they collide with atoms and molecules in the atmosphere, producing light.”

As a result, the northern lights, also called Aurora Borealis, are displayed in the sky.

Displays may be fairly static or move rapidly and pulse with varying brightness, according to French. An active display can cover most of the sky.

“An excellent and active display of northern lights is a marvelous sight,” he said. “And something people never forget.”

 
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