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Check out Tuesday night's aurora borealis


Alaska isn't the only place where stargazers can witness the spectacle of the northern lights, according to a State College-based meteorologist.

Brian Lada of AccuWeather Inc. said Pennsylvanians have a chance of seeing the aurora borealis on Tuesday night, especially during the first half of the night.

"There's a solar storm going on now," he said, and a high stream of solar wind has caused solar particles to interact with the earth's atmosphere.

"The storm is a little bit weaker than we expected, so the aurora is not quite as active as we thought it would be," Lada said.

In layman's terms, that means there's no guarantee you'll be able to see the northern lights.

"Space weather is a tricky thing," Lada noted.

Look north: But there are ways to increase your chances of seeing the phenomenon, and they involve more effort than simply walking out your back door and looking skyward, he said.

Lada advised people to go to a rural area "away from towns and cities where there's light pollution," and to an area with a good, clear view of the northern horizon. Also, the best chance of seeing the lights on Tuesday is the first half of the night, until about midnight, he said.

Even if the aurora isn't visible to the human eye, long-exposure photographs can reveal hidden colors, he said. Lada recommends using a camera that's capable of a 10- to 30-second exposure time.

"Sometimes the only way you can see them is to take a longer-exposure picture," he said.

Lada said this appears to be the last time northern lights will be visible in Pennsylvania for a while.

Meteor shower: If you missed Tuesday night's aurora borealis, Lada said there's another cosmic event people can check out.

The Taurids meteor shower has already started and will last through the end of October, producing five to 10 meteors an hour, he said.

Nov. 11 and 12 will be the peak viewing days for seeing shooting stars, according to Lada.

"These specific meteors have been known to produce fireballs," he said. "So they're brighter than your typical shooting stars."

Look eastward into the sky any time after dark and all through the night, Lada advised.

For more information on astronomical events, follow the AccuWeather Astronomy Facebook page.

— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at levans@yorkdispatch.com.