Will the Northern Lights show up again tonight? - KRTV News in Great Falls, Montana

Will the Northern Lights show up again tonight?

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GREAT FALLS - The Northern Lights -- formally known as aurora borealis -- delighted Montanans on Monday night and into Tuesday morning, with many people venturing out late to snap some photos.

STORMTracker meteorologist Mike Rawlins alerted people just before 10 p.m. that the lights might be visible, and that prompted a lot of folks to head outside to take a look -- and even provided a once-in-a-lifetime experience for some people.

Kylie Fraticeli posted on the KRTV Facebook page: 
"KRTV Thank you for this post! I saw it on the news app and dragged my teenage twin brothers visiting from Hershey, Pa north of town, like you suggested. They were white and bright and billowing like thin silk in a breeze. AMAZING. The clouds cleared out enough for them to even see the Milky Way for the first time in their lives-with some wisps of the Northern Lights! My brothers said it was the most amazing moment of their lives! We just got back, it was hard to peel ourselves away. I am SO glad I saw your post and dragged everyone out of bed and followed your advice. This is once in a lifetime for them. THANK YOU."

KRTV received viewer photos from the Great Falls area, Helena, the Hi-Line, and even Plevna in southeast Montana.

While there is never a guarantee that the Northern Lights will show up, veteran "aurora chaser" and photographer Vikki Higginbotham shared this information with KRTV:

"Seeing the lights is dependent on many factors: typically the sky has to be clear and dark, the Kp number of the storm has to be above 4.67 (if it is this low we may see them faintly), other city lights will diminish what you see, and you have to look North. What the visible eye and what a camera see are two different things. As a camera's shutter is left open to draw in as much light as possible. When looking with the naked eye what you will see is a band of white (possibly a little green) similar to a thin fog on the horizon. When the storm is really active you will see that "fog" start to ripple, wave or shoot spires straight up in the sky. 

Time wise you have to be patient. Typically they are strongest around midnight. However, if you have time and patience it can be an entire night show. Last night around 2:45 am is when they started pulsing over and above the spires. It was by far the strongest Kp I have seen since I started tracking them a few years ago at an 8.33 strength. Anymore I don't even go out unless it is 5.67 or higher because I now know what to look for and want to shoot."

Vikki also said on Tuesday morning: And if you missed them last night, I just got the alert they may be out again tonight or within the next couple of days.

If you plan to look for the Northern Lights, it's best to get outside of urban areas where there is less "light pollution." For people in and around Great Falls, many people have reported good luck if they drive just north of town, either up Highway 87 toward Fort Benton, or up Bootlegger Trail a few miles. 

A website called Soft Serve News offers up-to-date information about Northern Lights forecasts, and notes: "Auroras are difficult to predict with precision. They have stops and starts (known as sub-storms). If you are out there, you need to be patient and lucky. Here are some tools that will increase your chances. Auroras happen in the upper atmosphere, so if there is cloud cover, you are out of luck."

Soft Serve News also offers a paid alert service (that includes a 14-day free trial) to notify subscribers of likely activity.

You can also visit the Space Weather Prediction Center website, which is operated by the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration.

It provides information about the aurora borealis, and also features aurora forecasts.

On Tuesday, the SWPC said: "Solar wind conditions remain highly favorable for continued Strong Geomagnetic storming, with both fast solar wind and strong magnetic fields.  Aurora watchers in North America, especially northern tier states of the US, should stay alert."

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