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Northern Lights could be visible this week in Michigan: Here’s why and when

Updated: Dec 21, 2020

Aurora borealis expected to shift south thanks to massive solar flare from Sun

DETROIT – A geomagnetic storm watch has been issued across parts of North America, including right here in Michigan.

A massive solar flare on the Sun erupted in the direction of Earth. That solar flare accelerated the normal stream of charged particles that comes from the Sun to the Earth.

Sunspot region 2790 with C7 flare (WDIV)

That charge forces the aurora ring at the North Pole farther south. It’s going to get close enough to lower Michigan where people in Metro Detroit might have a chance to see the aurora borealis (Northern Lights) later Wednesday night or Thursday evening -- it has to be dark to see it.

If this happens either Wednesday night or Thursday evening, people in southern Michigan may be able to see the green glow or even a red one. If you see green or red in the sky, then you know you’re looking at the Northern Lights. If this happens during the daylight hours, we won’t be able to see it.

The key is going to be clear skies during dark hours.

What are the Northern Lights?

The bright dancing lights of the aurora are actually collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere. The lights are seen above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres.

They are known as “aurora borealis’ in the north and “aurora australis” in the south. Auroral displays appear in many colors although pale green and pink are the most common. Shades of red, yellow, green, blue, and violet have been reported.

The lights appear in many forms from patches or scattered clouds of light to streamers, arcs, rippling curtains or shooting rays that light up the sky with an eerie glow.


By Paul Gross, Meteorologist

Local 4 meteorologist Paul Gross was born in Detroit and has spent his entire life and career right here in southeast Michigan. Paul has researched, written and produced eight half-hour documentaries for WDIV, as well as many science, historical and environmental stories.


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