Sun eruption to give rare northern lights show for New Yorkers - NEWS10 ABC: Albany, New York News, Weather, Sports

Sun eruption to give rare northern lights show for New Yorkers

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Photo Credit: Joshua Strang / US Air Force Photo Credit: Joshua Strang / US Air Force

LOUDONVILLE, N.Y. - The fast, energetic eruption that took place on the sun Tuesday will allow residents of the Capital Region to see northern lights most likely Thursday night.

Scientists say while this space occurrence isn't rare, all the elements coming together with this one in particular will be rare.

"You will know it if you see it," Allan Weatherwax, Dean of the College of Science at Siena, said.  "You won't mistake [it] for moonlight or clouds, and you will say 'that's pretty exciting.'"

Weatherwax said the most likely time to view the northern lights, or aurora borealis, will be midnight Thursday.

"It just so happens, geometry was right with the sun and earth," he said. "The sun exploded, and now all the stuff is headed towards earth."

An explosion on the sun Tuesday released particles that will show themselves in the form of northern lights.

"If the weather is clear Thursday night," Weatherwax explained, "just look towards the North, and you will see a wispy green or red."

Weatherwax said sun explosions are usually much smaller and trap the particles at the poles, but this recent one was large enough to travel further down towards the equator.

"It can last all night," he continued.  "It will look like curtains and kind of look like shimmering arcs overhead.  It can be many different things."

Weatherwax also said radiation comes with the northern lights, but it mainly impacts space only.

"Our atmosphere shields us from most things," he said. "If we didn't have that, we would be in trouble. If we were on Mars, we would be in trouble."

Satellite radio or GPS may face some disruptions as a result of the lights. Aside from that, Weatherwax said it will only cause a great opportunity for star gazers.

"I can't remember the last time this year that all things were in line, and I think the last time it was cloudy," he said.

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