SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The Northern Lights or aurora borealis have been visible in South Dakota over the past several days including in the western part of the state near Rapid City.
“I know we experienced them last night and there is potential for tonight, National Weather Service meteorologist Keith Sherburn said on Monday, Feb. 27
Sherburn works in the NWS office in Rapid City said the Northern Lights “were a big topic of discussion when we came in today. The midnight shift was able to see it and they were pretty excited.”
What exactly is seen with the Northern Lights?
“What we’re seeing is what comes off from a solar flare or a solar mass ejecting that goes through space and eventually interacts with the earth’s atmosphere and specifically the magnetosphere,” KELOLAND meteorologist Adam Rutt said.
The colors displayed depend on what gasses it interacts with at what levels of the atmosphere, Rutt said.
“The most common color that we get is green,” Rutt said. “You could see red, could see blue, orange and even a little bit of pink at times.”
The NWS in Rapid City has been sharing Northern Lights photos on social media. So has Lexy Elizalde, a student at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center has an aurora forecast.
Sherburn said the longest forecast is roughly three days in advance.
A website called Soft Serve News also has updates on aurora forecasts including sharing information from the NOAA forecast.
Sherburn said the closer a person is to the north or south poles, the better the chances of seeing the Northern Lights. Still, residents of South Dakota can see the Northern Lights.
In general, he said there isn’t a greater or lesser chance from west to east in the state. Elevation could help, depending on the surroundings, because it may be farther away from light pollution, Sherburn said.
Rutt said areas between the 55th and 80th latitudes generally have the best chances of seeing Northern Lights.
Winter may also provide the best chance to see the Northern Lights, Rutt said.
“Winter is better time to observe Northern Lights than summer for two reasons. One: longer nights, more darkness to work with. And two, with winter there typically isn’t as much haze in the atmosphere. You want ideally completely clear conditions. The less cloud cover the better,” Rutt said. “Now is a good time to do that before we get into summer before we get those shorter nights and before we get that haze in the atmosphere.”
The Soft Serve News website advises that prospective Northern Light seekers will need patience and luck. However, the website and the NOAA site do offer tips for viewers including how to use maps.