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January 23, 2012 at 6:19 PM

Northern Lights could appear above Washington tonight

An unusually strong solar storm and clear skies overhead — could the Northern Lights appear over Washington tonight?

It’s possible, said University of Washington electrical engineering professor John Sahr, who studies space plasma physics.

The sun  released radiation and charged plasma Sunday in the largest solar storm since 2005.

In an email, Sahr recommended checking the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center website,  and “keep your eye on the blue line (the green line is a prediction of what the blue line will be).

“When the blue line gets up to 5, I think about putting our instruments in ‘storm’ mode,” he said. “When the blue line gets up to 7,  I go outside and look north.”

Sahr said in general, the Northern Lights are most visible over Washington between 10 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.,  “just because of the orientation of the earth and the earth’s magnetic poles with respect to the sun.”

NOAA has predicted that the strongest auroras will appear over North America Tuesday night. But on Tuesday in Western Washington, it’s supposed to rain.

Comments | More in General news | Topics: aurora, Northern Lights, solar storm

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