Montanans should be able to see aurora borealis this week

By: - August 17, 2022 1:17 pm

Montanans may be able to see the northern lights this week. (Provided by Tobias Bjorkli via

Montanans should be able to see lights in the evening skies this week with the Space Weather Prediction Center forecasting a strong geomagnetic storm watch for August 17 to 19.

Aurora borealis, also known as polar or northern lights, can typically be seen in higher latitudes. Large geomagnetic storms are linked to solar coronal mass ejections (CMEs), which the center explains are when around a billion tons of plasma from the sun arrive at Earth with its embedded magnetic field.

The center describes auroras as the only way most humans can observe space weather.

Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Great Falls Robert Hart said the best opportunity for Montanans to see the aurora would be Wednesday evening. Hart said the center’s forecast is predicted to be strongest on Thursday as they go by Universal Time Code, and Mountain Standard Time is seven hours behind UTC.

However, Hart warned that auroras are “finicky,” saying they are very hit and miss.

“Things can change in the sky within a matter of minutes to hours, meaning there could be nothing out there, and then all of a sudden you happen to look out, and it’s a spectacular show,” Hart said. “Or nothing happens, and it remains to be very minimal to a very poor show. That’s just the nature of solar activity.”

Hart said the best way to see an aurora borealis is to get away from city lights and look generally north towards the horizon.

For short-term, 30-minute forecasts from the center, go to:

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Nicole Girten
Nicole Girten

Nicole Girten is a reporter for the Daily Montanan. She previously worked at the Great Falls Tribune as a government watchdog reporter. She holds a degree from Florida State University and a Master of Science from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.