Debunking why you likely did not see the northern lights this past weekend


FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – You may have been excited by the prospect of viewing the northern lights this past weekend, but the chance never really materialized across northeast Indiana and northwest Ohio.

Why was this the case? To understand, we need to take a look at what causes an aurora. It has to do with coronal mass ejections (CMEs). Incoming particles from the Sun interact with the atmosphere of the Earth. This produces the light you see in the sky. The particles are then directed by Earth’s magnetic field, producing two rings of light around Earth’s north and south poles. This is why we have the northern lights and the southern lights. The definitions below are courtesy of the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center.

These coronal mass ejections (CMEs) can produce geomagnetic storms. Such a storm was forecasted for this past weekend during the late Saturday into Sunday timeframe. The NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center has a scale to define the severity of these geomagnetic storms. The strongest geomagnetic storms produce widespread impacts to power grids, radios, and satellite systems. The northern lights can be seen as far south as Florida and southern Texas. However, it is rare to see a storm of this magnitude (the average is 4 days out of 11 years). Most storms are lower on the scale.

This past weekend, a G3 geomagnetic storm was forecasted, which brought the chance to view the northern lights farther south. This was our forecast from the Live Doppler 15 Fury Storm Team.

So, why were there not widespread reports of the northern lights in our area? The impacts of activity from the Sun can be very difficult to forecast. In this situation, the coronal mass ejection (CME) was slower; it arrived around daybreak Sunday, meaning there was too much daylight to see the northern lights by this point. The CME also made less of a direct impact to the Earth, resulting in the geomagnetic storm being weaker than anticipated. Ultimately for us locally, there were too many clouds in the sky to really see any of the northern lights.

However, there was some strange light on our Dry Dock Marine Center Lake James camera Saturday night. There appears to be a strip of green light that was consistent amongst the clouds. Was this the northern lights? It is not likely, but there are no other visual explanations just by looking at the image below. This may have to remain a mystery…

The Live Doppler 15 Fury Storm Team will keep an eye on the sky and keep you informed on any forthcoming celestial events. We can guarantee one event coming up later in November. We look forward to the partial lunar eclipse set to occur during the early morning hours on November 19th (if the clouds stay away).

If you think you may have seen the northern lights this past weekend, let us know! You can send us a message on our social media channels or utilize our Report It feature.

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