Magical moment: a snowy owl basks in the eerie green light of an aurora

Snowy owl basks in the northern lights in Sauk Rapids, Minnesota Tuesday night (Douglas Kiesing)

Snowy owl basks in the northern lights in Sauk Rapids, Minnesota Tuesday night (Douglas Kiesling)

Snowy owls, in all their endearing majesty, have become beloved this winter – after several high profile visits from Washington, D.C. to Boston. Meanwhile, the mystical northern lights make many people’s bucket list. In Sauk Rapids, Minnesota last night, these two awe-inspiring works of nature converged.

As a wave of plasma – known as a coronal mass ejection – bombarded the Earth’s atmosphere, the sky turned a fluorescent green – illuminating a lone snowy owl proudly perched on a power pole. Photographer Douglas Kiesling captured this extraordinary scene.

“The auroras were so bright, I could actually see a snowy owl on power pole back lit by the green glow,” Kiesling told SpaceWeather.com. “The owl itself was illuminated by bright moonlight.”

Kiesling, a storm chaser who runs the Web site StormChasingVideo.com, graciously shared the photo with us.

He also captured this video of the aurora north of Saint Cloud, Minnesota, which he posted to YouTube:

EarthSky reports the northern lights were seen as far south as central Illinois.

The northern light show was a result of a moderate geomagnetic storm, still ongoing. Writes NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center:

Earth is currently under the influence of a coronal mass ejection (CME) and G2 (Moderate) geomagnetic storming has been observed. This is likely the result of what was expected to be a near miss from an event originally observed on the 14th. This CME [coronal mass ejection] has a fairly well-organized magnetic field structure so continued G1 (Minor) to G2 (Moderate) storming is certainly possible.

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