When predictions of visible northern lights in Michigan fly around the internet, people (like us) get super excited for a possible glimpse of this atmospheric phenomenon.
Does the latest aurora borealis forecast answer the question, “Can I see the northern lights in Michigan tonight?” with a yes? Keep reading to find out…
Can I See the Northern Lights in Michigan Tonight?
The U.S. Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC) is the best place to find an updated northern lights forecast as they have both a 3-day forecast and show geomagnetic activity in the last 30 minutes for current northern lights possibilities.
Geomagnetic activity is measured using the planetary K index (Kp) with a range of 0-9, with 0 being the least activity. The higher the Kp, the greater the activity of the northern lights, and the greater the range of visibility.
The SPWC states that for a 0-2 Kp, the aurora will be “far north, quite dim in intensity, and not very active.” The Northern Lights will spread out farther from the North Pole and become brighter with “more auroral activity” once the Kp reaches the 3-5 range.
For the northern lights to be visible across most of Michigan, the Kp will need to be in the 6-7 range.
“At this geomagnetic activity level, it might be possible to see the aurora from the northern edge of the United States.”– SWPC, Tips on Viewing the Aurora
Tonight’s northern lights forecast is determined using the Kp forecast, often affected by G1 Storm watches in effect. As of Thursday morning (11/30/23), the Northern Lights forecast tonight showed a great chance of Kp scores of up to 7!
According to Michigan Aurora expert Melissa Kaelin, “A G3 Storm Watch is in effect for the UTC day of Dec. 1, which could send Aurora even farther south on the night of Nov. 30-Dec. 1! We’ll need clear skies and consideration for the times of moon rise and moon set to catch this display. Aurora appearances could start as early as the early hours of Thursday morning, according to the SWPC forecast.”
What Causes the Northern Lights?
The northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis, are a mesmerizing natural display caused by the interaction between solar particles and the Earth’s atmosphere.
This phenomenon occurs when the Earth’s magnetic field is penetrated by solar flares, which are streams of energetic particles ejected from the sun. These particles, primarily electrons, interact with oxygen and nitrogen atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere.
During these interactions, the electrons in the Earth’s magnetic field collide with atmospheric atoms, leading to a transfer of energy. This energy transfer can cause the electrons to drop to a lower energy state, resulting in the emission of light, or photons.
This light is what we see as the aurora. The varying colors of the aurora are due to the different types of gas particles involved in these collisions.
Will We See the Northern Lights Tonight?
The honest answer? If the skies are clear, we’ve got a great chance! We’ll keep our fingers crossed for high Kp and clear skies while keeping our eyes on the skies.
Need more information on how to see the northern lights in Michigan? Check out our full guide:
- When is the Best Time to See the Northern Lights in Michigan?
- Where to See the Northern Lights in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula?
- Where to Watch the Northern Lights in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula?
- What’s Michigan’s Northern Lights Forecast 2023?
- Any Tips for Seeing the Northern Lights in Michigan?
- Need an Interactive Northern Lights Michigan Map?
- What are the Northern Lights?
- Want to See Michigan Northern Lights Photography?