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Rare opportunity to see Northern Lights over US skies: How and where to watch the celestial wonder

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The solar flares that occurred this week may have caused some problems such as the disruption of GPS and radio signals but the solar activities are not just all about unwanted implications. They also provided people the rare opportunity to see Northern Lights, also known as Aurora Borealis, over US skies.

Strong solar flares such as the one that occurred on Friday, which was classified as an X-class meaning it is the most intense of solar flares, are associated with the release of a cloud of electrically-charged particles known as coronal mass ejection (CME). The CME from this week's solar activities has already reached the Earth atmosphere and while this phenomenon is known to have unwanted effects on radio frequencies, GPS and cellphones, the geomagnetic storm it induces will also allow more people to see the Northern Lights.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said that the large solar flares that were hurled to the Earth this week indicate that the Aurora can be seen at a farther distance.

"When activity picks up, it becomes brighter and the auroral oval expands towards the equator," the NOAA said. "During very large events, it is possible to see the aurora in the continental U.S."

For those who want to witness the event, experts advised viewing the lights around midnight as the best aurora often occurs when the sun is on the other side of the planet and just like in watching firework displays, the best place to view the lights is in a dark area. Canada's Northern Lights Center also said that those who live in rural areas or small towns, where there are less light pollution and less cloud cover, are also more likely to capture the intensity of the light display.

Since the first geomagnetic storm occurred on Thursday night, there's a good chance to see the Aurora on Friday. For those who could not wait until midnight to see the display, AccuWeather.com astronomer Hunter Outten said that the Aurora will start to get visible after night fall.

"[Some] people won't have to stay up late to see them, but it will get better throughout the night," Outten said.

Those who were not lucky enough to see the celestial display on their first attempt possibly due to cloud cover, it appears that they have several chances to see the Northern Lights as the activity is forecasted to last several evenings.

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