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Northern lights could illuminate Chicago area sky

CRYSTAL LAKE – The Chicago area may be able to catch a glimpse of shimmering northern lights during the next couple days, if the weather remains clear.

Federal space weather forecaster Joe Kunches said the sun shot out a strong solar flare late Tuesday, which should arrive at Earth early Thursday. It should shake up Earth's magnetic field and expand the Aurora Borealis south, possibly as far south as Colorado and central Illinois. He said best viewing would probably be Thursday evening, weather permitting.

But the overnight forecast in the Crystal Lake area calls for cloudy conditions, with a chance of flurries. Rainy and snowy conditions are expected to continue into Friday and Saturday.

The University of Alaska's Geophysical Institute predicts much of Canada and the northern fringes of the U.S. should see the northern lights. Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, Seattle and Des Moines might see the shimmering colors low on the horizon.

The solar storm is already diverting airline flights around the poles and may disrupt GPS devices Thursday.

– The Associated Press contributed to this report

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