Thursday, June 9, 2011

Aurora Borealis Might Be Spotted In Pittsburgh Skies

Look to the skies tonight and you might, just might, see a display of northern lights caused by a medium-sized flare that erupted from the sun Tuesday. John Radzilowicz, director of science and education at the Carnegie Science Center, says there's a chance but not a great chance to see the northern lights or aurora borealis overnight in the Pittsburgh region...
"What you're most likely to see is a sort of greenish glow or haze in the sky towards the northern horizon, although it could climb fairly high in the sky. Sometimes you also see reds. The green and red represent basically the oxygen and nitrogen in the atmosphere. They're getting excited by the charged particles. So those are the most common colors."

He recommends the best possible viewing locations are away from city lights with the darker the better...
"Sometimes you can see things that look like curtains or sheets moving, sometimes even some brighter rays that are mixed in with the overall glow. But the most common for our latitude is what looks like a greenish haze."

Radzilowicz says it's also worth a look at the sky Friday night because there may be some left over lights. "This event (flare eruption) actually happened on the sun on Tuesday. It's typical for charged particles to make their way from the sun to the earth in a day and a half or 2 days."

The last time the northern lights were visible in Pittsburgh was about 10 years ago and according to Radzilowicz, they were visible even in downtown Pittsburgh despite the city lights. The sun is to reach its next solar maximum in 2013 completing its 11 year cycle of solar activity.

No comments: