GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A solar storm will be strong enough to paint Northern Lights across the night sky Thursday. The question is whether the sky will be clear enough to see them.
A stalled upper-level low pressure system has continued to bring clouds and rain to West Michigan. Unlike most storm systems, which typically move out of our area after a day, this upper-low will be lingering through the weekend. This will make it hard, but not necessarily impossible, to see the Northern Lights Thursday night.
There was a big enough geomagnetic storm Wednesday night to make the lights visible through the clouds in the northern Lower Peninsula, where Michael Gady captured this photo in East Jordan:
Thursday night, the Kp index will once again be high with a geomagnetic storm in play. This means Michiganders would be sitting in the right spot for a good show. This map from the Geophysical Institute shows the auroral forecast for Thursday night:
Areas shaded in green on the map could see auroras directly above them in the sky. Areas north of the green line would have the chance of seeing auroras, but they would be much lower on the horizon. Displays could be seen as far south as Indianapolis.
The Kp-index is once again forecast to be high — a 6. The best displays seen across all of West Michigan are usually linked with a Kp-index number of 7 or higher.
Skies will have the best chance of staying clear north of Muskegon and Newaygo counties. For a good chance of seeing the Northern Lights, enthusiasts should head to Mason, Lake, Manistee and Wexford counties or almost anywhere in the Upper Peninsula.
People hoping to catch a glimpse of the lights should stay away from city lights and look to the north.