This weekend could bring clear enough skies to allow a nighttime peek at the northern lights from Mercer Island, thanks to a big solar flare on Thursday, with the best chances on Saturday night and maybe Sunday night.
A large solar outburst Thursday means an appearance of the northern lights, or Aurora Borealis, is likely over Western Washington over the next few days wherever skies are clear. The X1.4 class flare erupted from the sun's Active Region 1520, which rotated into view last week. The flare created a coronal mass ejection, which is traveling in Earth's direction at more than 850 miles per second.
Saturday's area forecast calls for partly cloudy skies this weekend, so seeing the northern lights is possible.
Joe Kunches, a scientist at NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colo., told Kirkland Patch that the solar mass ejection will pass by the region at about 6 a.m. Saturday. So if skies are clear enough, the best chance to see the lights would be Saturday night, with less of a chance Sunday night.
"Chances diminish as the region rotates away," he said. "We're looking for it (the solar ejection) to go by the Earth Saturday at 9 a.m. Eastern time, so 6 a.m. your time."
City lights make it harder to see the stars and nighttime phenomena in the sky. The best viewing would be in areas on the Island with no street lights — such as — or low-lying mountains on the edge of the urban area -— like the Tiger Mountain trailhead outside Issaquah or the Rattlesnake Ledges Trail near North Bend.
If the clouds part, look in the sky to the north. If you're actually able to capture a photo, please share it on our Pics and Clips file here or our Facebook page (and while you're there, please 'like' us!).