By Ray Petelin


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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Will the northern lights be visible in Pittsburgh this weekend?

Typically, the chances to see the Aurora Borealis is rather slim, in Southwestern PA.

Occasionally, though, there is a geomagnetic storm spurred by a solar flare on the Sun that will set the stage for the Northern Lights to be visible here.

This 19 August, 2004 NASA Solar and Heliospheric Administration (SOHO) image shows a solar flare(R) erupting from giant sunspot 649. The powerful explosion hurled a coronal mass ejection(CME) into space, but it was directed toward Earth. (Photo Credit: HO/AFP/Getty Images)

Now, the geomagnetic storm that is going to impact Earth is considered a “G2 Geomagnetic Storm”, or a “moderate” one caused by a Coronal Mass Ejection, which is big solar flare.

This sends electrons from the Sun’s surface into the Earth’s atmosphere causing the nighttime light display. This energy is measure by the KP-Index, and assigned a number from 1-9, with nine being the most significant.

For Pittsburgh to see the Northern Lights, we need to see a 7 or 8 register on this index. Current projections say this will register as a 5-6, meaning the Great Lakes would have a better shot at seeing the show.

Should the Kp-Index show numbers favorable to see the Auroras in our area, you will want to find the darkest spot possible, to avoid light pollution.

The cloud cover, this weekend, shouldn’t be an issue either. Since they are called the “Northern Lights”, I will let you guess which direction to look, should we get our chance!