People living in more than a half-dozen states could see a dazzling — and surprising — display of the Northern Lights between Thursday night and Friday morning. It’s an “exceptional” event that officials say is unlikely to be repeated on Friday night.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center’s aurora forecast cited “stronger than anticipated” influences that helped make the overnight event a widespread spectacle in the northern U.S.
The faint aurora is typically only visible from a dark place, making it tougher to see in metropolitan areas.
Auroras not expected Friday night
Unfortunately for aurora fans, the spectacle from Thursday night is not expected to be repeated Friday night, William Murtagh, the program coordinator at NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, told USA TODAY.
The solar storm that produced the auroras last night has weakened, he said, adding that Thursday night’s aurora “was an exceptional event.”
What did the Northern Lights look like?
Weather Service offices shared photos of skies ablaze with shimmering green and purple hues.
Forecasters were stunned by the display, including an incredulous tweet from a Minnesota forecast office: “I’m no photographer but we’re able to see the Aurora with our naked eye here in Chanhassen!”
The weather service office in Spokane, Washington, called the spectacle “stunning.”
When reports of lights seen as far as Northern California began to surface, one Twitter user asked the San Diego National Weather Service whether the Aurora Borealis ever been visible in the southern part of the state. The forecast office replied, saying that a Northern Lights spotting is rare because of urban lights, but an occurrence was reported in 2000.
What causes the Northern Lights?
The colorful aurora forms when particles flowing from the sun get caught up in Earth’s magnetic field. The particles interact with molecules of atmospheric gases to cause the famed glowing red and green colors of the aurora.
Contributing: Drake Bentley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel