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Northern Lights may become visible over Idaho tonight

Aug. 3 - The night sky over Idaho can glow with colors this evening in a rare display of Northern Lights.

This is because the two smaller solar storms flared Sunday, shooting tons of plasma directly on the ground, astronomers say. The plasma is expected to make the Northern Lights show visible much further south than usual across the northern hemisphere. Lights must be visible around midnight tonight and Wednesday night against Idaho, David Aguilar, a spokesman for the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told the Idaho Statesman.

"This outbreak is aimed directly at us and expected to come here early on August 4," center astronomer Leon Golub said in a statement. "This is the first large Earth-directed eruptions in quite some time."

Scientists say when the outbreak, called a coronal mass ejection, when the ground is the interaction with the planet's magnetic field, potentially creating a geomagnetic storm. Solar particles stream down the field lines towards Earth's poles.

These particles collide with atoms of nitrogen and oxygen in the atmosphere, which then glow like miniature neon signs, Harvard Center says.

Aurora normally only seen at high latitudes, as in Alaska. But tonight the Idaho sky watchers look for rippling "curtains" of green and red lights.

Seeing them is not guaranteed. But the sky must be clear, so it's worth a try, "said Andie Woodward, spokeswoman for the Boise Astronomical Society.

"I would just say: Go out and take a look," Woodward said. "It's kind of a crap shoot."

Northern Lights is so weak that you probably do not see them if you live near Downtown Boise or other areas where light pollution is high, Woodward said. She recommends getting out of the country. One possibility is Swan Falls Dam near Kuna, where astronomical community at times cloud-see events.

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