The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Photos: Northern lights display over Norway becomes holy experience for local astronomer

Aurora over Norway, October 7, 2015. (Geoff Chester)

As a swift solar wind bombarded the Earth’s magnetic field Wednesday night, spectacular aurora danced in the skies at high latitudes.

For Geoff Chester, an astronomer at the U.S. Naval Observatory vacationing in Norway, the display was profoundly moving.

“I’ve just come in from watching the most amazing thing I have ever seen in my six decades upon this planet,” Chester wrote on his Facebook page. “Over the past 4 hours the sky has done things I never thought were possible. The insane beauty of the northern lights is very nearly overwhelming. I feel as if I’ve been privileged to read the thoughts of God, and I am not a religious person. I am continually amazed at the powers of Nature…tonight I feel very humbled to have been able to see this amazing sight with my own eyes.”

The aurora were mostly seen at high latitudes, although one eyewitness captured the phenomenon in rural southwest Virginia (Botetourt County)!

“The aurora was bright because this coronal hole had really fast solar wind flowing through it, almost 2 million mph,” said Joe Kunches, Capital Weather Gang’s space weather expert. “Plus it was of a magnetic polarity — positive — that is particularly geoeffective around the fall equinox.”

[Stunning images of the Northern Lights as two space weather phenomena coincide]

The lights were viewed from the International Space Station, where astronaut Scott Kelly beamed this image back to Earth:

On the wild side, a photographer in Norway videotaped whales roaming in the seas under the northern lights earlier this week, when solar activity was also elevated:

(Video hat tip: Andrew Freedman @Mashable)

High latitude auroras may appear again this evening as the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center calls for an 80 percent chance of polar geomagnetic storms.

Below, find more pictures of the aurora Wednesday night from both hemispheres, obtained from SpaceWeather.com’s wonderful aurora gallery and from Twitter:

On the other side of the globe, the aurora australis put on a light show over Tasmania and Australia on Oct. 7. (Video: YouTube/Robert Warren)
Loading...