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Will We Be Able To See The Northern Lights In Ohio This Year?

If you’ve been noticing the night sky shimmering more often with an ethereal glow, you’re not alone.

Thanks to the peak of Solar Cycle 25, Ohioans are in for a celestial treat typically reserved for the far north: the Northern Lights. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has updated its predictions, now forecasting the solar cycle to reach its zenith between January and October of 2024. With a maximum sunspot number anticipated to be between 137 and 173, the conditions are ripe for aurora enthusiasts and novices alike to witness this natural spectacle further south than usual.

So, what exactly are the Northern Lights, and why are they suddenly appearing in Ohio?

Known scientifically as the aurora borealis, these lights are the result of solar particles colliding with Earth’s magnetic field. This interaction causes vivid displays of dancing lights, primarily seen near the poles. However, an active solar cycle increases the frequency and intensity of these solar storms, pushing the auroras to lower latitudes.

And although they are rare in Ohio, people in the Buckeye State have been lucky enough to glimpse the lights before, most recently in November 2023.

For those in Ohio dreaming of witnessing this event, here’s a simple guide to maximizing your chances of catching the Northern Lights in all their glory:

1. Timing is Everything

The best time to spot auroras is between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. This window provides the darkest skies, which is essential for spotting the faint glow of the auroras on the horizon.

2. Escape the City Glow

Light pollution is a major barrier to aurora viewing. Find a spot far from city lights where the sky is dark. State parks or rural areas are often good bets. The darker the environment, the better your chances of seeing the Northern Lights.

3. Aim High

Elevation can be your friend when trying to spot auroras. A higher vantage point might give you a clear line of sight over obstacles and light pollution. However, don’t fret if you can’t get up high; a clear, dark sky is more important.

4. Weather Watch

Cloud cover is the enemy of aurora viewing. Before planning your night under the stars, check the weather forecast. Clear skies are crucial for a successful aurora hunt.

5. Horizon Gazing

Unlike those closer to the Arctic Circle, where the auroras often arc overhead, Ohioans should focus on the horizon. The lights might appear as subtle, moving glows. Patience is key, as the display can vary in intensity and duration.

Final Tips

Remember, aurora viewing in Ohio is still a rare and unpredictable event. Use aurora forecast tools like the one from the UAF Geophysical Institute to increase your chances. And while no special equipment is necessary, a simple camera with long exposure settings can help capture the moment if the auroras do grace us with their presence.

As we find ourselves in the midst of an active solar cycle, the opportunity to witness the Northern Lights in Ohio is a reminder of the ever-changing beauty of our night sky. Whether you’re a seasoned skywatcher or a curious newcomer, the possibility of seeing the auroras closer to home is an exciting prospect.

So, keep your eyes on the horizon and your fingers crossed; the Northern Lights might just make a dazzling appearance in the Buckeye State.

Featured photo by Vincent Guth on Unsplash