How to track the next northern lights appearance in Utah

Apr 25, 2023, 6:27 AM

Northern lights seen in Emigration Canyon on April 24, 2023. (Bryony Richards)

(Bryony Richards)

TOOELE COUNTY, Utah — Pictures of the northern lights lit up Utahns’ social media accounts, but what’s shocking is that all those photos are from the Beehive State.

On Sunday night, the weather phenomenon known as aurora borealis or the northern lights visited Utah, which surprised many locals.

“The last time I remember seeing one was in the early 2000s,” said Patrick Wiggins, NASA ambassador stationed at the Stansbury Park Observatory.

Wiggins got the alert of the lights being visible in northern Utah but thought he wouldn’t be able to see them.

“When I first walked out of the observatory and looked up, I thought it was clouds, you know because it was just gray,” he recalled.

However, those that were lucky enough to see the northern lights got some amazing views.

The lights visited Utah a few weeks ago, but the clouds prevented anyone from seeing them.

“So this one really punched through, and it came down, and we got to see a bunch of stuff. Just not as colorful as, say, the people waaayyyy up north,” Wiggins explained.

But the lights were big enough to light up Utah’s skies and social media all through an event that may be more common than you would think.

“I like to say the sun burped. If you want to use the fancy term, it’s called a coronal mass ejection, and they happen from time to time, and occasionally they’re pointed at the earth,” said the NASA ambassador.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration keeps an eye out for when the lights happen and what parts of the world may see the effects of that ejection of plasma and magnetic field. Wiggins said there could be an explanation for why we’re seeing more of this kind of activity lately.

“The sun gets kind of active, and then it goes down and up and down. It’s like an eleven-year cycle, and sometimes it’s more active than usual, and maybe that’s what’s happening. I don’t know,” he said.

We can even see the north pole shift slightly at times, but Wiggins said it’s all nothing to worry about unless you’re itching for a nice view.

“Somebody asked me, ‘Are we going to see it again tonight?’ and I doubt it, but I’m going to look, you know,” he said with a laugh.

Related: PHOTOS: Uncommonly, northern lights shine across parts of Utah


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How to track the next northern lights appearance in Utah