Northern Lights may return to BC skies this weekend

Northern Lights could provide yet another dreamy show in the sky over British Columbia – and both nature fans and photographers are hoping to get another fascinating glimpse of the phenomenon after it surfaced earlier this month.

A strong geomagnetic storm guard is in effect from October 30 to 31 by the US-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“The sun has been quite active lately, and yesterday a sunspot gave way to a solar flare that led to a coronal mass emission (CME) on its way to us,” said CBC meteorologist Johanna Wagstaffe.

“If the wave of plasma comes to our magnetic field, then that’s the recipe for the Northern Lights. When the electrons and particles interact, they can create the beautiful green and purple of the night sky.”

As CME approaches Earth, NOAA’s DSCOVR satellite will be among the first spacecraft to detect real-time solar wind changes and will issue appropriate warnings.

The University of Alaska’s North American forecast for the phenomenon indicates that it could be seen in parts of BC, including Metro Vancouver, over the weekend.

This diagram from the University of Alaska shows the possible range of places where the Northern Lights can be visible. (University of Alaska Geophysical Institute)

Because the earth is spinning and the plasma from the sun takes about two days to reach us, there is still uncertainty in the forecast, Wagstaffe said.

The Northern Lights are visible from Vancouver over the North Shore Mountains with the Lions Gate Bridge to the right on October 11, 2021. (Posted by Liron Gertsman Photography)

Photographers get ready

Astrophotographer Liron Gertsman is among those who used the previous aurora borealis event to scan the sky and take sweeping photographs.

“What was really special about a few weeks ago, and this Northern Lights that occasionally happens over Vancouver, is that we see them in a familiar context,” he said. “It’s a very rare and special and unique opportunity.”

Gertsman says he will spend the night monitoring forecasts, which he says often provide a 30-minute warning before the northern lights become visible.

The Northern Lights are visible from Vancouver over the North Shore Mountains on October 11, 2021. Nature fans and photographers hope to get another glimpse of the phenomenon this weekend. (Posted by Diego Rebello)

“You can relax a bit at home before the show is about to take place,” he said.

He says his hope is to get a shot of the glow over the tops of the North Shore mountains, even though he has to stay up late.

“If the show is good, it’s definitely worth it.”

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