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Posted at 10:43 AM ET, 10/25/2011

Aurora (northern lights) seen in more than half United States

Several sightings in Maryland and Virginia


Aurora explosion in Ozark, Arkansas October 24, 2011. (FromYouTube video posted by briandjin2 )
A stunning auroral display amazed and awed sky watchers as far south as Arkansas Monday night. SpaceWeather.com reports the unusual northern lights display was observed in more than half of the U.S. states. MSNBC called it one of the “farthest-reaching auroral shows in years”

Aurora are caused by geomagnetic storms which originate from coronal mass ejections, or blasts of solar wind. Yesterday’s storm hit the Earth at 2 p.m. according to SpaceWeather.com.

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center said it wasn’t a particularly strong storm, but was timed just right for a widespread showing:

While not a terribly significant geomagnetic storm, it did happen at a time when most of the United States was dark or getting dark. Couple that with the fact that large parts of the US had very clear skies, and you’ve got some beautiful sightings of the aurora....

Some sightings occurred in the Washington, D.C. region, mainly in western areas away from light pollution:

* Capital Weather Gang reader Joe Melancon saw them in Paeonian Springs (northwest of Leesburg) at 9:45 p.m.

* A reader from Hamilton, Virginia (also northwest of Leesburg, very close to the reader above) also emailed us to report a red tinge to the western sky

* SpaceWeather.com received photos of a vibrant red aurora in the northwestern sky taken from Potomac, Md.

* A red aurora was also photographed in Laurel, Va. (north of Richmond) and distributed via Twitter

That the aurora seen were predominantly red is unusual wrote Universe Today:

All-red aurorae are fairly rare, and are produced by high-altitude oxygen, at heights of up to 200 miles, being excited by collisions from charged particles released from the Sun.

In Ozark, Arkansas, an unbelievable outburst of red played out in the night sky. The time lapse video below is a must see:

The above video was submitted to YouTube by briandjin2 who offered this description: ...a little time lapse from stills showing the faint aurora explode in just a few minutes to become some of the brightest aurora ever seen at such low latitudes.

While the aurora were stunning in the South, they were most vibrant and multi-colored in the northern U.S. Some of the most spectacular photos were taken by photographer Randy Halverson outside Madison, Wisconsin who said: “At one point they were so bright, they lit up the ground...”

Watch this video of the aurora from Martin, Michigan, 17 miles north of Kalamazoo:

Video posted to YouTube by lakefxnet. Hat tip: ChicagoWeatherCenter

Will there be an encore aurora performance tonight? Unlikely.

Wrote SpaceWeather.com

The storm is subsiding now. Nevertheless, high-latitude sky watchers should remain alert for auroras as Earth’s magnetic field continues to reverberate from the CME impact.

NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center added:

Unfortunately for sky watchers, the geomagnetic storm appears to be in decline and no further significant space weather is expected at this time.

Additional aurora video:

Alberta, Canada

Drake, Mo.

North Georgia

Related:

Aurora over the D-M-V: Did you see the Northern Lights?

By  |  10:43 AM ET, 10/25/2011

Categories:  Latest, Astronomy, Space, Photography

 
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