Look up at the sky over Metro Vancouver tonight as the Northern Lights could be making a last minute appearance.
Live data provided by NASA’s Advanced Composition Explorer (ACE) satellite indicates Earth’s atmosphere is being hit by a higher volume of fast-moving solar particles from the sun.
A minimum Kp of 6.0 is necessary for the Northern Lights to reach the Metro Vancouver region while a Kp of 9.0 means the event could be seen as far south as Kansas. The Kp is expected to meet or exceed this threshold over the next few hours, reaching a peak Kp of 6.67 just before 7 pm.
The Kp, an index used to predict global geomagnetic activity, is currently forecasted to dip to below 6.0 after 8 pm, but this could change and it could peak again later in the night or early morning by the time the ovation fully spins over to the West Coast.
This satellite provides skywatchers with the most accurate predictions just 30 to 60 minutes before a geomagnetic storm occurs.
According to the US National Weather Service, an aurora might be seen as far south as southern Montana and northern Wyoming early Wednesday morning.
— NWS Billings (@NWSBillings) October 26, 2016
This is not an assurance that the Northern Lights will make an appearance, and the timing is most difficult to predict, but the solar particle conditions are perfect for a solar storm that will reach Metro Vancouver.
As well, no rain is in the forecast tonight and early tomorrow morning; expect partly cloudy skies through sunrise.
Where to spot the Northern Lights in Metro Vancouver
The Northern Lights are visible in some of the more secluded areas of the Metro Vancouver region, away from the light pollution of dense urban areas. Some of the best spots to spot the Northern Lights in and around Metro Vancouver include:
- Spanish Banks in Vancouver (From the westernmost area of the beach next to Pacific Spirit Park)
- Porteau Cove in Squamish along the Sea to Sky Highway (The gate is ocassionally closed, and the parking spaces in the area are very limited. Please do not park along the highway as your car will be towed away.)
- Cleveland Dam Field in North Vancouver
- Burnaby Mountain (On the northern face of the mountain, at the top next to SFU)
- Iona Beach Regional Park in Richmond
- Delta and Tsawwassen (Vast empty farmlands with few view obstructions and sources of light pollution)
- Grant Narrow Regional Park in Pitt Meadows (The gate is occassionaly closed. There are stunning views of Pitt Lake from this area.)
Use a DSLR camera to verify a Northern Lights sighting
If you have ever wondered why photos of the Northern Lights from DSLR cameras do not look like what you observe with your own eyes, it is because human eyes have limitations when it comes to spotting low light levels at night. On the other hand, DSLR cameras coupled with high ISO settings and long exposure times can detect a greater extent of the show.
Although the faint glow of the Northern Lights should be visible from the city with solely the human eye, the LCD viewfinder of a DSLR camera will provide you with a more detailed depiction of what is in front of you.