OTTAWA — A strong geomagnetic storm from outer space is expected to light up the night sky, but getting a view of the aurora borealis near Ottawa may be hampered by cloud cover.
The U.S. National Weather Service’s Space Weather Prediction Center has issued a G3, or strong, geomagnetic storm watch for Sept. 6 and 7. Coronal mass ejections — powerful eruptions near the surface of the sun — are expected to charge Earth’s atmosphere to the point where the northern lights could be visible quite far south.
“It could be even seen anywhere from Washington to Maine,” said Gary Boyle, The Backyard Astronomer. “So it’s a really low one on the scales.”
Tonight’s mainly cloudy sky may obscure your view, but there is a chance of getting a glimpse of the northern lights through a clear patch in the cloud cover.
Boyle says the best places to view the northern lights will be a few kilometres outside the city, where there is less light pollution. But, he advises, don’t head south of the city.
“South is one of the worst because then you’re looking over the city,” Boyle explained. “So anywhere north, east or west; just get a few kilometres out of the city and bring your digital camera.”
While tonight’s aurora borealis may be visible to the naked eye, Boyle says your camera may pick it up more vividly if you set it on a tripod and expose the lens for about 15 seconds.
“The longer you expose, the more colour will register on the chip, so you never know — and pixels are free,” said Boyle.