People living in at least a half-dozen states could see a dazzling — and surprising — display of the Northern Lights between Thursday night and Friday morning.
National Weather Service offices in Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota, Wisconsin, South Dakota, North Dakota, and New York reported seeing the dancing green glow of the aurora borealis overnight.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center’s aurora forecast cited “stronger than anticipated” influences as it predicted conditions for the Northern Lights would continue into Friday morning.
“Northern Lights are dancing tonight over Upper Michigan!” tweeted the National Weather Service office in Marquette, Michigan.
When and where will the Northern Lights be visible?
There are no guarantees when it comes to spotting the Northern Lights, so it’s wise to manage your expectations when seeking them out.
A Thursday night Space Weather Prediction Center forecast says strong geomagnetic storming was observed at about 11 a.m. ET on Thursday and was expected to roll “into the early morning and overnight hours” of Thursday and Friday.
The chances for seeing the Northern Lights were highest — well — in the North. The best chance for spotting the aurora were in states such as Alaska, Washington, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and New York.
The effects from a blast of solar energy that triggers geomagnetic storms, which in turn bring the aurora, were expected to weaken on Friday.
The faint aurora is typically only visible from a dark place, making it tougher to see in metropolitan areas.
What did the Northern Lights look like?
Weather Service offices shared photos of skies ablaze with shimmering greenish 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!”
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: Doyle Rice, USA TODAY; Drake Bentley, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel