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Here's Why: We See The Northern Lights

Did you catch the northern lights this week in West Michigan? Meteorologist Michael Behrens explains why this awesome display takes place!

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — If you were up and outside Thursday night in West Michigan you had a chance to take in a truly breathtaking display! The northern lights were bright and bold across the mitten state on Thursday, and while it's not rare for us to see them, it is a bit rare for them to be so intense. 

Viewers all around the region sent in their photos to us, and you can see those in a gallery below, but have you ever wondered why this phenomena can even take place? 

Let's take a look at the science behind these gorgeous displays in our skies!

The Question:

Why do we see the northern lights?

The Why:

It all comes down to the earth's magnetic field and the sun!

The magnetic field generated by the earth acts as a shield to protect us from the direct solar winds of the sun that would otherwise make life as we know it impossible. However, this field has weak spots at the poles. 

Credit: WZZM
The magnetic field of the earth.

These weak spots are where the charged particles of the sun can make their way into the atmosphere and excite the elements that make it up. 

The exciting point of these elements is what generates the colorful auroras, with different elements at different altitudes being responsible for the various colors that we see! 

Credit: WZZM
A full explanation of how the northern lights form!

While there is still some chance for the northern lights to be visible into the coming weekend (3/25-3/26 of 2023) an approaching weather system is going to be increasing our cloud cover and making for poor viewing conditions starting Friday night. 

Credit: WZZM
Sky condition forecast for 3/24/23.

If you catch any cool weather photos or videos around West Michigan, be sure to share them with us by texting them to 616-559-1310! 

-- Meteorologist Michael Behrens

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Email me at: MBehrens@13OnYourSide.com

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