For those who've by no means seen the Northern Lights, this may very well be your probability!

Tonight and the rest of the weekend could be your best chance to see the Northern Lights.

The sun has been extremely active lately and is heading towards its solar maximum. A huge Earth-facing sunspot group called AR3664 became visible, the first of something incredible, according to Spaceweather.com SIX Coronal mass ejections have been thrown towards us from this active region and are now impacting our planet's magnetic field.

Solar experts predict that people across the U.S. as far away as Alabama and Northern California could have the pleasure of seeing the Northern Lights this weekend. Those of you in Northern Europe might also experience a bit of Northern Lights excitement. For current information, see the Space Weather Prediction Center's 30-minute aurora forecast.

If the weather conditions are right in your area, you could hit the Aurora jackpot. Below you will find a map with predictions.

A map from the Space Weather Prediction Center shows the aurora forecast for the United States on May 11, 2024. Image credit: Space Weather Prediction Center

“If you're in an area where it's dark and cloud-free and relatively unaffected by light, you might be able to see a pretty impressive aurora display, and that's actually the gift of space weather, which is the aurora,” said Rob Steenburgh , from NOAA's (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) during a briefing on Friday.

A map from the Space Weather Prediction Center shows the aurora forecast for the Northern Hemisphere on May 10, 2024. Image credit: Space Weather Prediction Center

According to SWPC, the impact of the geomagnetic storm reached Earth-based magnetometers at 1645 UT on May 10. More CMEs are following close behind, and their arrival could extend the storm into the weekend.

While these solar storms could provide breathtaking views of auroras, there is also the risk of disrupting communications systems, power grids and satellite operations.

The sun is super active right now! ?? ? ?

The video below shows a number of eruptions that have erupted over the last seven days – not to mention another X-class eruption that occurred this morning! pic.twitter.com/O5jwUBmMDT

— NASA Sun & Space (@NASASun) May 10, 2024

As we reported earlier this week, the Sun triggered three X-class solar flares – the most powerful class of flares – in quick succession. Solar flares are explosions on the Sun that release powerful bursts of energy and radiation that come from the magnetic energy of sunspots. The more sunspots there are, the greater the risk of solar flares.

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory captured these images of the solar flares – as seen in the bright flashes at top right – on May 5 and 6, 2024. The image shows a subset of extreme ultraviolet light, highlighting the extremely hot material in flares colored in blue-green. Photo credit: NASA/SDO

Sunspot group AR3664 is so large that it is visible to the naked eye – but you MUST wear special glasses (do you have any leftover April 8 solar eclipse glasses?) or use special solar filters for telescopes or binoculars. AR3664 is huge, about ten times the size of Earth.

How to see the Northern Lights

The Northern Lights are an incredible sight. The best way to see it is to be in a dark area.

“Get away from city lights, go to a dark, rural setting and look north,” the National Weather Service in St. Louis, Missouri said on X (Twitter). “Aside from some clouds associated with a passing front, it looks mostly clear most of the time.”

Check the weather forecast in your area for cloud cover. But if you're out of luck tonight, check back on Saturday or Sunday evening. Due to multiple CMEs, the storm was expected to continue into the weekend.

Good luck!

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