Northern lights may be visible in Oklahoma this week
There’s a small chance Oklahoma could experience the aurora borealis, or the northern lights, this week in the night sky.
A severe geomagnetic storm created auroras that were visible as far south as Arizona in the U.S.
Oklahoma may have an opportunity to see the dazzling display after they were recently seen near the Texas Panhandle, officials report.
Scientists say the auroras' visibility in uncommon places comes from the severity of a solar storm.
According to NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center, a severe geomagnetic storm was detected for March 24, 2023. The storm was rated G4 out of G5, which is said to be the reason for aurora borealis being visible in areas like Oklahoma.
G4 (Severe) Levels Reached! If you have clear skies tonight, look for the aurora where it may be visible. pic.twitter.com/kiMh9203m0
— NOAA Space Weather (@NWSSWPC) March 24, 2023
Auroras are caused by the solar wind interacting with Earth’s magnetic field. These auroras tend to navigate around the Earth’s magnetic poles.
“The solar wind particles funnel around to the long tail of the magnetosphere, where they become trapped,” NASA said. “When magnetic reconnection occurs, the particles are accelerated toward Earth’s poles. Along the way, particles can collide with atoms and molecules in Earth’s upper atmosphere, an interaction that provides the atoms with extra energy, which is released as a burst of light. These interactions continue at lower and lower altitudes until all the incoming energy is lost. When we see the glowing aurora, we are watching a billion individual collisions, lighting up the magnetic field lines of Earth.”
Normally, the lights occur within the “auroral ovals” that encircle the Arctic and Antarctic. But during severe storms, these particles can travel farther from the poles, expanding the auroral oval to encompass more of the globe. On Halloween in 2003 the ghostly lights appeared as far south as Florida. In September 1859, during the largest geomagnetic storm ever recorded, auroras lit up the Caribbean.
This past week, just as the northern lights stretched southward, the southern lights also stretched farther north. People in Tasmania — at a Southern Hemisphere latitude comparable to northern California in the Northern Hemisphere — spotted the auroras, as well.
This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Northern lights in Oklahoma? Possible this week after solar storm