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The Northern Lights over the skies of Voyageurs National Park in northern Minnesota
Photograph: Shutterstock

The Northern Lights may be visible in dozens of states this weekend!

The Kp Index is very strong.

Erika Mailman
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Erika Mailman
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Mother Nature is showing the kinder side of her power this weekend; places that ordinarily do not have a chance to see the glorious Northern Lights may actually catch a glimpse. According to Afar, Washington, Montana, the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and the northeast may be in luck – and even states that are farther south stand a chance.

There’s a fancy little number called the Kp Index (that stands for ‘planetarische Kennziffer,’ which means planetary index in German), which scientists use to rank the likelihood of seeing aurora borealis (Latin for ‘northern dawn’). A 0 means no show, and 9, the highest, means for sure you’re gonna have front row seats. Scientists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute are giving this weekend’s performance a six, which is pretty great (and a five on September 30 and October 3).

Alaskans know they can always see the Northern Lights. But states that don’t consider themselves eligible for seeing these northern phenomena may therefore get to this weekend, like Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and all of the northeastern states. Realistically, though, curb your enthusiasm because most likely it’ll be only the tippy-top areas of these states: Washington, Montana, the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Maine.

Also, not everyone believes the Kp Index is a reliable indicator.

And gosh, if we’re going to lose our exuberance, we might as well talk about how the colors you see in real life aren’t as great as in photographs. Are the Northern Lights really that eerie greenish, pinkish display, like the sky is a watercolor painting? Or do they kind of appear like, er, fifty shades of gray?

But...wow, these photos!

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