**Thursday Update: An initially promising U.S. forecast for the northern lights has gone bust.**
The head of operations at the U.S. government’s space weather prediction center says stargazers in the continental 48 states have essentially zero chance of seeing the northern lights this week.
That's despite an initially promising forecast. Forecasters had thought they would be viewable as far south as Illinois this week.
The northern lights are also known as aurora borealis. They are an astronomical phenomenon in which curtains of color are visible against the night sky.
The Space Prediction Center has an Aurora Watch in effect for the next 48 hours.
A geomagnetic storm is expected to take place tonight thanks to energy from the sun directly impacting earth's atmosphere. The result of all of this activity is the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis. It's rare to see the Northern Lights in Central New York because we are usually too far south of the North Pole. However, in larger events, the lights do become visible at our latitude.
Storms are rated on something called the Kp scale, which is a measurement on how far south the lights extend. We're looking for a minimum number of 6 for our area to spot the northern lights. Tonight's forecast is 7 and Thursday night's forecast is a 6, so both nights will offer the possibility of viewing.
Unfortunately, the best day offers the worst weather conditions. Sky conditions tonight are extremely poor due to widespread cloud cover. These clouds look to linger throughout tonight as well as tomorrow. High pressure will start the clearing process tomorrow night, with clouds giving way to clear skies.
Tomorrow night offers the only chance to view the Northern Lights, locally. Stay away from city lights and look to the north. The best time looks to be between 10pm - midnight. The way things are looking tonight, only part of our area will be able to clear out in time, with the best chance for clearing south of the Mohawk Valley. Check back with us tomorrow for the latest.