The solar wind sneaked through a “crack” in Earth’s magnetic field Saturday night, causing spectacular auroras in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres. Space weather forecasters were stunned by the spectacle.
In the video shown above, even the full moon can’t dull the vibrancy of the southern light’s turquoise, green and yellow shades frolicking above the coastline of Dunedin, New Zealand.
In the Northern Hemisphere, the lights were also seen in Europe and, according to Twitter, as far south as Colorado. “This is surely one for the record books! A #solar minimum #Sun sends #aurora as far south as Colorado!,” tweeted Tamitha Skov, a space weather expert.
The geomagnetic storm was rated 3 or “strong” on the 1 to 5 scale for these events by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“Forecasters did not see this coming,” SpaceWeather.com wrote. A small wave of charged particles from the sun, known as a coronal mass ejection, first hit Earth on Friday but produced little effect. “The action began only after Earth entered the CME’s wake, where strong south-pointing magnetic fields opened a crack in our planet’s magnetosphere,” it explained.
“This storm illustrates the critical importance of the magnetic field; the earth’s magnetic field is so sensitive to the strength and direction of the field coming from the Sun,” added Joe Kunches, Capital Weather Gang’s space weather expert.
The surprise storm was a reminder that the sun can unleash powerful outbursts even during the solar minimum, its current phase.
“Solar Minimum or not, we have seen some seriously strong events in the last year,” tweeted Michael Cook, a space weather forecaster. “Think back to Sept 2017 when we had our strongest Solar Flares of the cycle and now this event.”
Kunches called the event a “courtesy call” from the sun, “a reminder that activity can happen most any time.”
Below are views of the aurora, via Twitter:
Incredible dancing #Auroraborealis in the #upperpeninsula of Michigan. The one second shutter speed at the end is crazy. #miwx #stormhour @ReedTimmerAccu pic.twitter.com/BPq5huTAqY— Dan B (@wx_man_Dan) August 26, 2018
Aurora Borealis captured last evening in York, Maine. #maine @_SpaceWeather_ @AuroraMAX @Aurora_Alerts @earthsky @TamithaSkov @WMUR9_Weather @MattNBCBoston #northernlights pic.twitter.com/G2rp3zHOd5— Ron Risman TimelapseWorkshops (@Cameratown) August 26, 2018
There's always that one photo you love when you take a series of them. This one is it. Last night's #NorthernLights near Mohawk, MI. #AuroraBorealis #UpperMichigan #KeweenawPeninsula #StormHour pic.twitter.com/lcJ5kSOPxy— isaac (@ID_photo_graphy) August 27, 2018
The aurora was out early this morning over Decker, Montana. A green band was faintly visible for hours despite the smoke and bright moonlight. #MTwx #MontanaMoment @StormHour @TamithaSkov pic.twitter.com/zBwfNSPSG1— Kevin Palmer (@krp234) August 26, 2018
Full moon G3 #Aurora captured over the Range Lighthouse where the #SaugeenRiver meets #LakeHuron in #Southampton Ontario Canada // August 26, 2018 | 3:13AM EST @stormhour @TamithaSkov #northernlights #auroraborealis pic.twitter.com/O2o5RKvLdH— Scott Rock (@scottrockphoto) August 26, 2018
OK. I am officially saying this night was the best night ever for me as an aurora chaser in Dunedin. It gets no better. This pic sums up my night. Imagine the smile on my face! Also southern ocean waves were crashing on Allans beach. #aurora #beauty #NewZealand pic.twitter.com/c4IwIvhym0— Ian Griffin (@iangriffin) August 26, 2018
Here's another great nighttime scene from #VIIRS Day/Night Band with #GreatLakes storm tops illuminated by moonlight while lightning streaks & a wispy #Auroraborealis make their own mark. Magical! pic.twitter.com/2QR6dPwC5M— UW-Madison CIMSS (@UWCIMSS) August 27, 2018