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Northern Lights expected to appear in the U.S. this weekend. Chances of seeing it in Maryland? Iffy

A burst of energy recently expelled from the surface of the sun is expected to create a geomagnetic storm this weekend, potentially making the aurora borealis visible across the northern tier of the United States.

But don’t expect to see the Northern Lights glowing in bright colors over Maryland skies. Even the most generous forecast suggests that Maryland might just see a glow on the horizon, and that is probably only possible in rural areas with pitch-black skies.

The Space Weather Prediction Center has issued a “moderate” geomagnetic storm watch for Saturday after observing what is known as a coronal mass ejection Wednesday morning. That event sent a burst of charged particles in Earth’s direction.

If and when they reach the planet’s magnetic field, they could trigger a dramatic show of the Northern Lights, which are actually just energized particles of gas in Earth’s atmosphere.

The center’s forecast suggests the aurora borealis is likely to appear as far south as New York, Chicago and Seattle. If the storm is significantly stronger than forecast, reaching the extreme end on a scale of geomagnetic intensity, it could be visible across Maryland, but that is not expected.

The best chance of seeing any signs of the Northern Lights is expected in dark areas along the Mason-Dixon Line.

sdance@baltsun.com

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