‘Beautiful phenomenon’: Northern lights expected to be visible around Vancouver Island Thursday

'Beautiful phenomenon': Northern lights expected to be visible around Vancouver Island Thursday
James Younger

People around Vancouver Island are encouraged to look into the night sky on Thursday as the northern lights are expected to be visible to stargazers.

The northern lights, also known as aurora borealis, are often seen in northern Canada, Alaska and other northern countries.

Karun Thanjavur, senior astronomy lab instructor at the University of Victoria, said we are nearing the end of an 11-year solar cycle that will make the dancing northern lights visible in more southern regions.

“It’s all connected to activity on the sun,” Thanjavur said. “Many more sunspots are happening, very large sunspots, and that is what’s giving rise to the solar activity and what we call a coronal mass ejection.”

Coronal mass ejections are an explosive outburst from the sun, according to the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research. If the outbursts collide with the Earth’s magnetosphere, which is an invisible bubble around the planet that protects from the Sun’s radiation, it results in the northern lights.

“Because these are mass ejections, the northern lights are brighter and more intense,” said Thanjavur. “That’s why we are having more occasions to see the northern lights.”

The lights are expected to be visible Thursday night across Vancouver Island, Vancouver and across several states including Washington, Oregon, Idaho and New York.

“It is a beautiful phenomenon,” Thanjavur exclaimed. “This is a good period to make use of this opportunity if people can do it.”

He said people wanting to see the light should get away from the city when the sky gets really dark, past midnight, find a dark area and look towards the northern horizon.

“It will be very low on the northern horizon, so having trees and all that will make it more challenging,” Thanjavur said.

He said the naked eye should be able to see the green hue of the lights, but a cell phone or professional camera on night mode might make it easier to see.

Thanjavur added there will likely be more opportunities to see the northern lights on the Island over the next year as the solar cycle comes to an end, likely next year.

He said after that the 11-year cycle restarts and those local opportunities will dwindle again for a while.

READ PREVIOUS: ‘Can’t look away’: Northern lights shine bright over Vancouver Island Sunday

-With files from the Associated Press.

Editor’s note: This story was initially published without credit to the photographer. The photo credit for James Younger has now been added. CHEK News regrets the error.

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