Northern Lights may be visible Friday night across Minnesota, northern Iowa

(ABC 6 News) – The Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, may be visible across Minnesota and northern Iowa on Friday night.

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center says a series of solar flares have occurred in recent days with one likely having an Earth-directed component with Friday night being an estimated arrival time. According to the aurora forecast, the Northern Lights will be visible highest toward the U.S.-Canada border, but still may be visible as far south central Iowa.

Aurora forecast for Feb. 17, 2023 (Credit: NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center)

These solar flares, or energized particles from the sun, interact with Earth’s upper atmosphere at speeds up to 45 million miles per hour (mph) creating the dazzling light display. Earth’s magnetic field protects us from these particles and redirects them towards the poles, but it usually takes a significant solar flare for the aurora’s to be visible this far south.

“These particles are deflected towards the poles of Earth by our planet’s magnetic field and interact with our atmosphere, depositing energy and causing the atmosphere to fluoresce,” said astronomer Billy Teets, the director of Dyer Observatory at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. 

The bright colors of the northern lights are dictated by the chemical composition of Earth’s atmosphere. 

The best way to view the Northern Lights is to get away from city lights and look towards the northern horizon. The aurora can be very sporadic and come in bursts as it’s not constantly active throughout the night.

The current forecast calls for mainly clear skies. There’ll be a brisk breeze with temperatures in the 20s and wind chills in the teens.