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Most of Alberta has high chance of seeing northern lights this weekend


Most of Alberta could be in for a spectacular showing of the northern lights this weekend as a solar storm makes its way towards Earth.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a geomagnetic storm watch for Saturday evening to early Sunday morning.

Andy Kale, a research associate in the department of physics at the University of Alberta, told CTV News Edmonton the storm is the result of a large coronal mass ejection and solar flare that occurred Thursday.

"That travels a little bit slower," Kale said. "That flare should reach us Saturday."

Kale described the solar flare emission as the sun burping, spewing charged particles that fall to the Earth's atmosphere causing what we see as the northern lights.

According to the NOAA forecast, the peak of the storm is expected Saturday night and early Sunday morning, with conditions ranging from minor to strong. 

Solar activity is expected to last all weekend, giving opportunities for the aurora to appear Saturday, Sunday, and even Monday night, should conditions align.

"The sun has decided to come trick-or-treating with us," Kale said, as he laughed.

According to Kale, anyone north of the 50-degree line of latitude — so north of about Medicine Hat, Alta. — has a good chance of seeing the aurora borealis this weekend.

Just two weeks ago Edmontonians were enraptured by the aurora borealis. Kale said that storm was only a G2, with solar storms classified from G1 to G5 — with G5 being the highest.

This weekend could peak as a G3, meaning it could be even more spectacular.

"We're starting to see solar activity ramping up again," Kale said. "We're exiting what we call a solar minimum, a period where solar activity is quiet.

"We're ramping up now where solar activity should increase and increase." 

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Ryan Harding Top Stories

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