Northern Lights expected to dance over Calgary but cloud coverage may obscure views

Photographer Matt Melnyk captured the Northern Lights near Carstairs, Alta. on Nov. 5. Matt Melnyk

Conditions are ripe for dazzling displays of the Aurora Borealis in southern Alberta ahead of the weekend, if the view isn’t blanketed by clouds.

Researchers predict a geomagnetic storm will hit the planet in the coming days, potentially triggering visible Northern Lights in-and-around Calgary.

Aurora activity is expected to begin overnight Wednesday with the strongest showing anticipated Thursday night into early Friday morning.

The recent increase in space weather has resulted in one of the best years for displays of the Northern Lights in more than a decade. The next two years are expected to be even better.

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“The sun is on a ten-year cycle and we are climbing our way into our next solar maximum, which peaks in 2025,” explained photographer Matt Melnyk, “We have a whole bunch of sun spots facing directly toward the planet and they shot off solar flares and they’re headed directly for us.”

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Chris Ratzlaff, an aurora chaser, says several solar flares and coronal mass ejections have been spotted over the last few days, which are often the precursor to Aurora Borealis.

“What we’re going to see is a couple of these events arriving over the next couple of nights. We will have the potential for aurora (Wednesday night), it’s going to be northern sky aurora that will sort of approach overhead but it won’t be fully overhead.

“(Thursday night), we’ll see what I would call a ‘full sky event’ where you’re going to see the potential for aurora from horizon to horizon.”

Melnyk and Ratzlaff say the best locations for viewing the Northern Lights will be void of light pollution.

As of Wednesday afternoon, the forecast for all three nights in Calgary ranged from partly cloudy to considerable cloudiness.

— With files from Global News’ Joelle Tomlinson

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