US enjoys dazzling Northern Lights show (2024)

Millions of Americans have enjoyed a rare Northern Lights show caused by a geomagnetic storm that could interfere with power lines and communications.

From Maine to Alabamaand far into the United States' wild west, excited spectators gazed up at the night sky on Friday and watched the aurora's striking display of vivid colors.

On X, formerly known as Twitter, people shared pictures they had taken of the celestial phenomenon, and #aurora is currently trending.

Auroras are created when energy and particles from the sun temporarily interrupt Earth’s magnetosphere, creating a geomagnetic storm.

Picture of the aurora taken in Maine, where the northern lights were initially visible

As the night wore on, the aurora spread and was visible in places like Alba, Texas, where this picture was taken

In Michigan, the aurora offered viewers a beautiful blend of colors

This picture of the aurora was taken in Waukesha, Wisconsin.Auroras are created when energy and particles from the sun temporarily interrupt Earth’s magnetosphere

Some solar particles travel along our planet’s magnetic field lines into the upper atmosphere, activating nitrogen and oxygen molecules and beaming photons of light in different colors.

According to the NOAA, the optimal places from which to watch the aurora are in the far northern latitudes, including Sweden, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Greenland, and Northern Canada.

Because of the strength of this particular geomagnetic storm, the aurora was visible in places as far-flung as New Zealand, where people were witnessing the 'southern lights.'

Across America, people looked up in amazement at the aurora, which is being caused by the strongest solar storm in 21 years.

In Alabama, viewers were offered a striking violet and pink sky

Connecticut star-gazers weren't let down by Friday night's display of northern lights

In southwest Ohio, the sky was a breathtaking blend of delicate colors

In Independence, Missouri, a slash of pink light illuminated the sky

Some of the earliest pictures of the northern lights were taken in Maine, where the phenomenon was visible shortly after 9 pm.

However, soon the aurora spread and people reported seeing it as far south as Texas.

Among the many pictures of the aurora posted on, there were some taken in places as wide ranging as Alabama, Wisconsin, Connecticut, Ohio, and Michigan.

There were also pictures taken in Georgia, Arkansas, North Carolina, Oklahoma, and Missouri.

Although people were thrilled to see the aurora, scientists are slightly concerned with the geomagnetic storm that's causing it. This picture of the northern lights was taken in Lancaster, New York

The geomagnetic storm was assessed as a G5, making it the first G5 storm since 2003; picture of the aurora in Marshville, North Carolina

A tweet from the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center said: 'Extreme (G5) geomagnetic conditions have been observed!' Picture of the aurora in Oklahoma

Apart from creating auroras, like this one in central Arkansas, geomagnetic storms can also create issues. Severe storms cancause widespread electrical disruptions, blackouts and damage to critical infrastructure

Before the aurora was visible in America, it was illuminating the skies over Europe.

Although people were delighted with sight of the northern lights, the geomagnetic storm that's causing them has scientists slightly worried.

The storm was recorded as being of G5 (geomagnetic 5) strength by satellites around 8pm Friday - the strongest level available. It's the first G5 level storm since October 2003.

A tweet from the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center said: 'Extreme (G5) geomagnetic conditions have been observed!'

The solar storms are set to last all weekend and pose a potential threat to power grids. They could causewidespread electrical disruptions, blackouts and damage to critical infrastructure. GPS devices are especially vulnerable and could experience major issues.

A view of the sun earlier on Friday as a severe solar storm was unleashed that's set to batter the United States all weekend

An aurora in the sky above Kharkiv, Ukraine, where Russian forces have attempted a surprise ground offensive

The aurora is also visible in England, where this picture was taken under a famous sculpture at Crosby Beach in Merseyside

The solar storm is a result of six streams of plasma that have burst from the sun and are hurtling toward Earth.

Now that the streams of plasma are roughly one million miles from the planet, scientist are able to gauge the severity of the storm.

The NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center released an update that said the geomagnetic storm was going to be a 6 on the K-index, which is a scale that quantifies the disturbances in the Earth's magnetic field. The scale ranges from 0, which is calm, to 9, which is severe.

A 6 is considered a moderate geomagnetic storm, which means that power systems located at high latitudes are especially vulnerable and can experience emergency situations.

If this particular geomagnetic storm should prove long, transformers and other electrical equipment could suffer damage.

The NOAA's current forecast is higher than their previous prediction, which was a 5.

Dr. Tamitha Skov, a space weather physicist with the NOAA, announced that the geomagnetic storm was a G5 on the Hp30 index, which is a scale like the K-index, but it measures disturbances in shorter windows (30 minutes versus three hours).

A few hours ago, the NOAA updated their prediction and said that the geomagnetic storm was exhibiting G5 conditions

Earlier in the evening, the NOAA had predicted a G4 geomagnetic storm, a less extreme scenario

A G5 storm would represent an extreme geomagnetic storm, a possibility that would be replete with serious problems and inconveniences.

At the farthest end of the index, a G5 would entail serious transformer damage and widespread blackouts.

High-frequency radio communications could possibly be rendered incapacitated for a few days.

And satellite navigation services, such as GPS, could be off-line for several days.

Dr. Skov wrote that time would 'tell if this #solarstorm has the punch to cause the (K-index) to reach G5 as well.'

Scientists have also predicted that three of the six streams, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), could combine to create a powerful 'cannibal CME.'

On the K-index (a scale that quantifies disturbances in the Earth's magnetic field) the geomagnetic storm rates a 6, which is considered moderate

Auroras are created when energy and particles from the sun temporarily interrupt Earth’s magnetosphere, creating a geomagnetic storm. This is a photo of the aurora taken early Saturday morning in northern Germany

On Friday night, the aurora was visible in Manchester, England

Geomagnetic storms take place when high-energy particles released from solar flares ejected by the sun reach Earth.

The sun is continuously erupting and hurling particles into space, but given that its 93 million miles from Earth, it rarely reaches us.

'We anticipate we will get one shock after another. We are really buckling down here,' Clinton Wallace, director of NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center (SWPC), said during the Friday media briefing.

When the sun emits a solar flare, it creates an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) similar to that of a nuclear bomb which in turn can disable or destroy all electronic equipment, including satellites.

In Crosby, England, spectators gathered outside to marvel at the Northern Lights

The breathtaking phenomenon was also visible in Ireland, where this photo was taken

The Northern Lights pulsed over Fistral Beach in Cornwall

Friday’s geomagnetic storm is the result of several explosions on the sun, called coronal mass ejections.

These are large clouds of solar plasma and magnetic field.

Late Thursday night, the NOAA issued a Severe (G4) Geomagnetic Storm Watch, noting a a large sunspot cluster had produced several moderate to strong solar flares since Wednesday.

Sunspots are cooler parts on the sun's surface caused by massive changes in our star's magnetic field.

Often bigger than planets, sunspots appear dark on the sun's surface because they are cooler than other parts - although they're still very hot, around 6,500°F.

In Cumbria, eager aurora-watchers gathered outside on Friday evening to observe the natural spectacle

Friday’s geomagnetic storm is the result of several explosions on the sun, called coronal mass ejections

The NOAA said that the geomagnetic storm was 'a giant' because of two colossal sunspot clusters: one in the northern hemisphere of the sun and another in the southern hemisphere.

Sunspot AR3664, which released flares this week, is more than 124,000 miles across - about 16 times the diameter of Earth.

NOAA explained that GPS could see the most disruptions.

Rob Steenburgh, Space Scientist for SWPC, said: 'In the most severe cases, you'll see an actual loss of lock, so the so the receiver will lose lock on the satellite, and then that information that navigation of this navigation and timing information will be unavailable until it is able to reestablish the lock.

'So outage, with any luck, should not be prolonged.

It's going to depend on the number of spacecraft that are available to connect to the receiver and where they are on the horizon.'

Geomagnetic storms take place when high-energy particles released from solar flares ejected by the sun reach Earth

NOAA said that people should prepare as they would for a power outage - batteries, flash lights and generators.

However, the agency has been intact with infrastructure operators in preparation for the geomagnetic storm.

'[People] won't have to do anything. And if everything's working like it should, will be stable they'll be able to go about their their daily lives,' said Steenburgh.

Extreme (G5) geomagnetic conditions have been observed!

— NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center (@NWSSWPC) May 10, 2024

Developing story, check back for updates...

US enjoys dazzling Northern Lights show (2024)


Can you see the northern lights in the USA? ›

Where can I see the northern lights in the US? “The aurora may become visible over some northern and upper Midwest states from New York to Idaho,” the center's advisory for Tuesday said. Brasher said the sun's 11-year cycle is “approaching or at” solar maximum, the period of highest activity.

What is the prediction for the northern lights in 2024? ›

The sun goes through 11-year-long cycles, which alternate between so-called "solar maximums" and "solar minimums." As of the middle of 2024, we are nearing the solar maximum of Solar Cycle 25, when solar activity will be at its highest.

Can you see the northern lights from Chicago? ›

The northern lights danced across Chicago-area skies last night and so many of you captured stunning shots of the dazzling display! I've seen a lot of unbelievable things during my time in Chicago — but I never expected “the northern lights over Navy Pier” to be one of them.

Can you see the northern lights in Florida? ›

They occur in Earth's ionosphere hundreds of miles above the surface. The aurora was seen across the world on May 10 was the strongest geomagnetic storm for 21 years, with northern lights seen as far south as Arizona and Florida. Much of Europe and North America witnessed red and very rare blue-colored aurora.

Where is the easiest place to see the northern lights in North America? ›

Alaska. Because of its location within the auroral oval and dark skies, Alaska is one of the best places in the world to see the northern lights, and lucky for American travelers, you don't even need a passport to get there.

What is the northern lights capital of North America? ›

Yellowknife, Canada

This spot has actually been dubbed the 'aurora capital of North America', the city providing views of the lights 240 days a year. Due to its high latitude, the winters here are longer and darker, allowing viewing from late summer to late winter.

Which month is best to see the northern lights? ›

Anytime between late September to late March is a good time for northern lights hunting as the long nights provide ample aurora viewing opportunities. The good news is that the sun's approximately 11-year solar cycle of solar activity is ramping up as we approach solar maximum.

Where to see the northern lights in 2024 in the United States? ›

Where to see the Northern Lights in the U.S. Alaska and Maine, the most northern points in the U.S., are generally the best places to see the Northern Lights. Around the spring and fall equinoxes, and within an hour or two of midnight are the best times to see the aurora.

How long do the northern lights last? ›

The aurora often occur for a few glorious minutes at a time. A good display may last between 15 and 30 minutes, although if you're really lucky, it could extend to a couple of hours or longer.

Are northern lights visible from Yellowstone? ›

You can see examples of the different focal lengths below and the way that impacts the composition. The northern lights pulsate in the skies over Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park. It's unusual to see the aurora borealis at Yellowstone which makes this encounter over an iconic landscape so special.

What causes aurora borealis? ›

When a solar storm comes toward us, some of the energy and small particles can travel down the magnetic field lines at the north and south poles into Earth's atmosphere. There, the particles interact with gases in our atmosphere resulting in beautiful displays of light in the sky.

Do northern lights show in Texas? ›

Last weekend's storm was initially forecast as a G2, or moderate, geomagnetic storm but was upgraded to G4, or severe. This strength allowed residents in the northernmost parts of Texas to view the northern lights with the naked eye. It's too soon to tell if upcoming storms might be visible again in Texas.

Can you see the northern lights with the naked eye? ›

Yes. Most commonly the aurora seen will be green or whitish, but depending on the strength of the activity, pinks and reds are also visible to the naked eye.

Are there Southern Lights if there are northern lights? ›

The difference between the Southern and the Northern Lights is not just in a name. The Southern Lights, unsurprisingly, can be found in the Southern hemisphere and are called the Aurora Australis. Conversely, the Northern Lights are found in the Northern hemisphere and are called the Aurora Borealis.

How far south can you see the northern lights? ›

With G5 storms, the northern lights can be visible as far south as Florida and South Texas. Tuesday's storm is predicted to be a G2, or “moderate” strength. With G2 storms, the northern lights tend to be visible in several northern states, says the Space Weather Prediction Center.

When to go to Alaska for the northern lights? ›

The best time to see the northern lights in Alaska is between mid-August and mid-April, when less daylight leads to darker night skies.

Can you see the northern lights in Texas? ›

The lights, also known as aurora borealis, could be seen as far south as Arizona, Alabama and Texas as a result of a massive storm on the Sun that sent eruptions of solar material toward Earth.

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