Dartmouth’s alumni claim “the still North in their soul” each time they sing the alma mater—but as any of Dartmouth’s Arctic researchers could tell you, Hanover is fairly far south—if you’re measuring from the North Pole. That’s why it’s noteworthy that the aurora borealis, the northern lights, should be visible from Hanover tonight.
It’s a “fairly reasonable expectation,” says Kristina Lynch, professor of physics and astronomy, who studies the phenomenon. Matter ejected from the sun during a flare on January 7 is reaching the Earth now and interacting with the planet’s atmosphere and magnetic field. A check of data from the ACE satellite, “which is out in front of us in the solar wind,” confirms high levels of activity, she says.
Three factors increase the chances of seeing the aurora when it’s active, Lynch says. The first is a dark and clear sky. “If it’s the sort of night and place where you could see the Milky Way, you’re in good shape.” Second, she says, the later the better. “After midnight, the shape of the aurora makes it more visible farther south.” And third, she says, you need a view north, and as low on the horizon as you can.