These 17 States May Catch a Rare Glimpse of the Northern Lights This Week

Here's where and when you might see the aurora borealis in the lower 48.

The northern lights will be visible in at least 17 states this week on July 12 and 13, according to the aurora forecast from the University of Alaska. Activity is expected to be at its peak on Thursday, July 13, and could be visible in many northern states including Montana, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Indiana, New York, Vermont, Maryland, and Maine, as well as Alaska. Canadian cities like Toronto and Vancouver will also likely have a chance to witness the celestial event.

“Weather permitting, highly active auroral displays will be visible overhead from Inuvik, Yellowknife, Rankin and Iqaluit to Vancouver, Helena, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Bay City, Toronto, Montpelier, and Charlottetown, and visible low on the horizon from Salem, Boise, Cheyenne, Lincoln, Indianapolis and Annapolis,” the aurora forecast states.

In the map below, you can see the band where the aurora borealis activity will be at its peak on July 13.

Courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks
Courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks
Courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks

In rare events, the northern lights can be viewed in parts of the lower 48 contiguous US states, as is predicted for July 13. The last time this happened in a significant way was in late April when aurora borealis sightings were reported in some 30 states.

To see the aurora you need a clear and dark sky, University of Alaska’s Geophysical Institute advises. The institute offered some additional guidance below:

What is the best time of day to see the northern lights?

“The best time to watch for aurora is three or four hours around midnight, but aurora occurs throughout the night,” the Geophysical Institute says. The time frame you are most likely to see the celestial display is 9 pm to 3 am, given that the sky is clear and dark. Factors like moon brightness, weather, and the times of sunrise and sunset can all factor into the best viewing window for each event.

What causes the aurora borealis?

“The aurora is formed from interactions between the solar wind streaming out from the sun and Earth’s protective magnetic field, or magnetosphere,” the NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center explains. “The aurora is one manifestation of geomagnetic activity or geomagnetic storms.”

Courtesy of University of Alaska Fairbanks
Courtesy of University of Alaska Fairbanks
Courtesy of University of Alaska Fairbanks

In simpler words, the aurora borealis is a glowing band that can be seen around the Earth’s northern pole, created by a clash of electric particles from the sun’s solar wind and mixing with atoms of oxygen, nitrogen, and other gasses. A mirroring band circles the southern pole, and is called the aurora australis.

Ready to go stargazing?

Here are all the best stargazing events that you can get out and see this month or you could stay in and stream the northern lights from home. If you’re just getting started, check out our guide to astronomy for beginners or easy stargazing road trips from big US cities.Want more Thrillist? Follow us on InstagramTikTokTwitterFacebookPinterest, and YouTube.

Opheli Garcia Lawler is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @opheligarcia and Instagram @opheligarcia.


Mad Mex’s New Menu Item Is Inspired by a Popular Mexican Street Food

mad mex chicken al pastor

Mexican restaurant chain Mad Mex has dropped a new protein, and it’s one of the most popular street foods in Mexico.

Enter, Chicken Al Pastor. It’s traditionally made with pork and grilled on a spinning rotisserie with a pineapple sitting a top, but Mad Mex has put its own spin on it, serving chicken bathed in an Al Pastor marinade with a touch of juicy pineapple.

You can order the protein-packed filling in your favourite burrito, bowl, quesadilla, nachos, or in a taco.

As always, these things are here for a good time, not a long time. Pop into your local Mad Mex restaurant, order delivery or through the Mad Mex app today.

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