Aurora borealis could dazzle Long Islanders

Long Islanders could be in for a rare and incredible show in the skies.

The luminous phenomenon known as aurora borealis, or the northern lights, is expected to be visible from Long Island Saturday night.

Astronomists say two giant solar flares this week released particles that have ignited the aurora borealis in such a way that the curtain of colorful lights can be seen as far south as Maryland. It's a unique event that occurs about once every 11 years.

The spectacle was also visible Friday night, but heavy cloud cover made it difficult to see. Tonight's partly cloudy skies may offer better visibility.

News 12 photographer Brian Stahl captured images of the lights at a beach in Southold at around 1 a.m. Saturday morning. The horizon was lit up with gold and purple hues. Watch the video above to see more photos.

An expert told News 12 what spectators could expect. "You'll see colors that are related to the gas that is in the Earth's atmosphere, red and green, oxygen and nitrogen, and it looks like red and green curtains," says Dr. Donald Lubowich, Hofstra University's coordinator of astronomy.

Dr. Lubowich says the best place to view the celestial spectacle is in a dark area, away from lights. He says it will start to be visible just after dark, but midnight is the primetime for viewing.

Astronomy experts at Hofstra University add that the solar activity could also potentially create communication problems: the electronic field induced by the particles could affect radios, cellphones, television and the power transmission grid.

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