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Health & Science

Northern Lights Are Not Coming to Cleveland Now After All

photo of Northern Lights
Michael H. Lee
/
U.S. Navy via AP
The Northern Lights are seen here above a U.S. Navy training site in the Beaufort Sea. They will not be seen in Cleveland at this time.

It looks like Northeast Ohio residents won’t be catching a glimpse of the Northern Lights Friday.

The Space Weather Prediction Center had forecast a pretty strong solar storm would reach Earth tonight, a G-3. But on Thursday, that prediction was downgraded to a G-1.

“There will be a lot of auroral activity, but that will be within about 6 degrees of the North Pole,” said JonDarr Bradshaw, a STEM teacher at the Great Lakes Science Center. “But much south of that you just aren’t going to be able to see much.”

The Northern Lights, or aurora borealis, are caused by solar storms that take two or three days to reach Earth. Large storms have produced lights seen as far south as Mexico.

“Typically, they remain near the Arctic Circle,” Bradshaw said. “There are places on Earth, particularly near the poles, where you can see them just about every day.”

The federal government watches these events closely because they can harm astronauts and disrupt communications.

“A solar flare emitting all of that solar radiation can damage your DNA, it can give you cancer,” Bradshaw said. “So as we think about going back to the moon and on to Mars, we’re thinking about countermeasures.”

All hope is not lost, though, for a peek at the Northern Lights in Northeast Ohio. Bradshaw said another solar storm could come at any time.

“There are just peak periods,” he said. “The sun has a cycle and, for whatever reason, the sun has peak cycles about every seven years or so.”  

We’ve recently entered one of those peak cycles, with a high point expected in 2025.
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