northern lights toronto

Northern lights might be visible near Toronto tonight

If solar forecasts are accurate, tonight might be an excellent chance to catch a glimpse of the northern lights. You'll have to leave Toronto, of course, but if the geomagnetic storm hitting the Earth is as strong as projected, you won't have to drive that far north to see the majestic phenomenon. Some predictions have the Aurora Borealis visible as far south as Pennsylvania.

Two powerful solar storms erupted over the last few days, sending a mass of charged particles towards the Earth that have the power to disrupt telecommunications devices and satellite signals but also to produce incredible light shows above the northern horizon. It's difficult to predict the precise power storms of this type will have when they hit the Earth, but the second of these storms looks very promising for major auroral activity.

So how should you go about catching the northern lights? Well, before you go anywhere, make sure to check the KP Index (the number used to rate geomagnetic activity). This handy map gives you a pretty idea of how it works: the higher the number, the further south the lights can be seen. To see auroras from the latitude around Toronto, the KP Index needs to be around 6 or 7. If you see it at the number or higher and you're not surrounded by light pollution, get outside and look north.

In terms of where to go, heading north of the city is obviously the best bet. This will take you you away from light pollution and increase your chances of seeing the lights. Failing that, just get away from the lights of the city and make sure to check the KP Index. If it's at 7 and you're in a place like Milton or Kitchener, it's worth having a look.

Photo by Richard Gottardo in the blogTO Flickr pool


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