The Northern Lights could be visible from the Seattle area Wednesday evening — before clouds and fog form — because of a solar eruption. The effect might linger into Thursday evening.

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Seattle area residents may have a chance to see the Northern Lights Wednesday evening if a burst of energy from a massive solar eruption performs as scientists expect.

Terry Onsager, a physicist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said the event was set in motion Monday by a “coronal mass ejection,” which he described as a piece of the sun’s atmosphere breaking off and heading into space.

As it gets to Earth, the electrical currents associated with the event can cause “an energization of the Earth’s atmosphere,” displaying shades of green, red or blue, referred to as the Aurora borealis.

The effect, possibly visible as far south as Oregon, might linger into Thursday evening, but could be weaker by then, Onsager said.

Onsager said the effect could last for hours, but as far as the best viewing time, he said, “We won’t know until its pretty much on us.” Updates will be posted online at

One challenge to sky-watching from the Puget Sound area: The Weather Service forecast for the evening calls for increasing clouds or areas of fog.

Cliff Mass, University of Washington meteorologist and weather blogger, said the best chance to see the effect may be early in the evening, before the fog sets in. Getting away from city lights also would help, Mass said.