A massive solar storm creates dazzling aurorae in the far south

Cape Canaveral, Fla. (AP) — An intense solar storm made the northern lights shine brighter in the sky to the south than usual.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Monday that an explosion of superheated material from the sun late last week spewed scorching gases known as plasma toward Earth at nearly two million miles per hour (3 million kilometers per hour).

Earth felt the brunt of the storm Sunday, according to NOAA, as meteorologists warned power station and spacecraft operators of the potential for disruption.

Aurora borealis have been reported across parts of Europe and Asia. In the United States, sky charters have taken in scenes from Wisconsin, Washington state, Colorado, California, New Mexico and even Arizona—mostly a reddish glow rather than the usual greenish flash.

“I don’t want any projections of these green curtains moving back and forth” so far south, said Bill Murtagh, program coordinator at the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Colorado.

Although weather conditions have eased, the aurora borealis may still be visible as far south as South Dakota and Iowa late Monday and early Tuesday if the skies are dark.

Farther north, the show was better as energetic particles interact with the atmosphere closer to Earth, according to Murtagh. Farther south, the curvature of the Earth interrupts the most dazzling scenes as particles interact higher in the atmosphere.

Murtagh said light pollution in Boulder prevented him from seeing the Northern Lights Sunday night. But there may be more opportunities as the solar cycle increases.

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“Stay tuned for more to come,” he said.

This was the third intense geomagnetic storm since the current 11-year solar cycle began in 2019, according to NOAA. The agency expects the cycle to peak in 2024.

The southern lights, Murtagh said, should provide equally good performances for those down there.

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The Associated Press Health and Science section receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Science and Education Media group. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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