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The Northern Lights Will Be Visible in Certain US Cities For the First Time in 42 Years

This phenomenon only happens about every half-century.

by Bucket Listers


UPDATE: If you were up late to view the show, make sure to tag Bucket Listers (@bucketlisters) on social media so we know you fell for our April Fools’ prank! Love, Bucket Listers– your trusted city guide *364* days a year.

The aurora borealis, or northern lights, will glow strongly enough to be seen dancing above select major city skylines across the US tonight. 

The aurora is a brilliant natural light display in the Earth’s sky, usually only seen in higher-latitude regions—think: Norway or Iceland. The lights appear as curtains, rays, or spirals, in dynamic colors flickering across the entire sky.

However, this week’s rare occurrence means you won’t have to travel far to check the natural event off of your bucket list if you live in certain cities across the United States. 

Cities in the predicted viewing area include northerly located urban areas like New York City and Chicago, but also Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, and San Diego. While it’s not guaranteed you’ll be able to see the lights all evening, if viewed at midnight local time when the sky is darkest, astronomers say the glow will be visible in each city respectively. 

We can thank the unusually strong solar activity on the night of March 31 for the celestial ballet results, which is predicted to cause a Kp-index (a measurement of aurora activity) of 5. Regions that traditionally see the northern lights fall between 1 and 3 on the index, so a night of Kp-index 4+ offers an incredibly good chance to see the display.

See which cities will be in prime viewing areas and check out image renderings provided by the NOAA below:


Chicago’s 311 South Wacker will also be turning off the lights, and rumor has it—their Museum of Science and Industry is planning to place telescopes all across the city for better viewing. 

Los Angeles

In Los Angeles, there will be a city wide ordinance for the skyline to shut off its nonessential lights at 11:50pm  exactly, and Griffith Observatory will be hosting a live stream from its telescoped grounds.

San Francisco

SF’s City Hall and Salesforce Tower will go dark between 9pm and 3am. Local officials in the city are encouraging residents to  drive up to Twin Peaks for your best view if you’re in the bay. 

New York City

There is a strong enough chance that city light pollution won’t affect visibility, but some iconic buildings will be turning off their lights to better the odds. New York, for instance, will be turning off its dozens of Times Square electronic billboards. 

San Diego

Of course, the rumors are likely less than true, considering this entire article is an April Fools’ joke. But, you never know! 

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Paramount Miami Worldcenter, One Thousand Museum Miami, and more will go dark between 9pm and 3am to lessen the odds of light pollution. 


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