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The Northern Lights may return to New York in June 2024. What you need to know

Rochester could get another chance to witness the Northern Lights in early June, when the massive sunspot responsible for May’s spectacular aurora faces Earth again.

The aurora, the light seen in the night sky from electrons from space colliding with Earth’s upper atmosphere, is caused by interactions between the Sun’s solar wind and the planet’s magnetic field. Geomagnetic storms, such as the one in May, can make the aurora brighter and visible further from the poles.

According to NASA, the sun rotates on its axis about once every 27 days. This rotation means that features on our star’s surface, including sunspots, are not always pointed toward Earth. The optimal dates for Earth to align with these displays are June 4 to June 6.

Sunspots can cause coronal mass ejections, which are large bursts of plasma and magnetic field from the Sun’s outer atmosphere, known as the corona. When Earth is in the line of a coronal mass ejection, like in May, it can produce a spectacular and far-reaching Northern Lights show.

Another aspect that could enhance the observation of the Northern Lights on June 6 will be the new moon, which will bring an important source of light from the sky for anyone wishing to view or photograph the phenomenon.

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Space weather: solar flares cause beautiful northern lights in the US

Strong solar flares hurled plasma at Earth and created astonishing auroras. These storms are rare, but thanks to space weather tracking, the consequences are minimal.

Reuters

The May appearance of the Aurora Borealis reached not only Rochester, but also regions as far south as California and the Southeast.

However, as with any celestial event, viewing opportunities will depend on the weather and AccuWeather’s early local forecast for June 6 calls for “considerable cloud cover,” a high chance of rain and a chance of thunderstorms.

More: NASA’s ‘Meteor Guy’ explains the meteor showers coming in 2024

More: Severe solar activity made the Northern Lights visible in Rochester. What to know

Opportunities to view the Northern Lights should become more common as solar maximum, expected in July 2025, approaches. Solar activity has a cycle of roughly eleven years, with a peak every 5.5 years.

Higher solar activity means more sunspots, more solar flares and more opportunities for aurora observations beyond the Arctic Circle.

For more information about space weather conditions and aurora forecasts, visit NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center at swpc.noaa.gov.

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