Dazzling Northern Lights surprised people across the US overnight when they made a rare appearance in temperate skies.
The colorful, dancing lights are also known as the aurora borealis. They normally occur in the Arctic, but powerful eruptions on the sun caused them to stretch as far south as Phoenix, Arizona before sunrise on Friday, according to images shared by photographers and skywatchers on social media.
The aurora occurs when electrically charged particles stream from the sun and wash over Earth. Our planet’s magnetic field channels that “solar wind” to the poles, where the particles interact with molecules in our atmosphere to produce beautiful ribbons of green, pink, purple, and red light.
The National Weather Service had anticipated heightened aurora activity on Friday, possibly as far south as Washington and New York, due to a high-powered solar wind streaming toward our planet from a giant “hole” on the sun, called a coronal hole.
But new eruptions on the sun, called coronal mass ejections (CME), supercharged the solar wind to cause “a severe disturbance in Earth’s magnetic field,” NWS reported.
It was “a perfect storm,” Alex Young, the associate director for science at NASA Goddard’s Heliophysics Science Division, told Insider.
As a result, the aurora blew past the forecasts, lighting up the skies in brilliant colors as far south as Missouri, California, Wisconsin, and even Arizona.
Between New York City’s John F Kennedy airport and Minneapolis−Saint Paul airport
La Crosse, Wisconsin
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