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Spectacular northern lights anticipated

An intense burst of energy from the sun was heading towards Earth on Thursday and was expected to make for spectacular conditions to see the northern lights across Canada.

Ruth Ann Chicoine with the Canadian Space Agency said a spot on the sun exploded Tuesday in what is known as a solar flare and sent a coronal storm cloud our way.

Such storms collide with particles and gases, such as oxygen and nitrogen, in the Earth's atmosphere to create the northern lights.

This storm was expected at around 3 a.m. EST Thursday, but Chicoine joked that it appeared to be taking the panoramic route to Earth.

She said a nationwide alert had been issued, meaning even southern areas could see the northern lights Thursday night if the storm hit as hard as predicted.

There hasn't been a northern lights phenomenon like this in a year or two, she said.

Sky-watchers not wanting to go out in the cold or not able to get to a dark enough area weren't out of luck. AuroraMAX — a partnership between the University of Calgary, the City of Yellowknife, Astronomy North and the Canadian Space Agency — live streams the northern lights from Yellowknife on the websites www.asc-csa.gc.ca/eng/astronomy/auroramax/connect.asp and http://astronomynorth.com/auroramax

The Canadian Press

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