Monday, October 24, 2011

Rare Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) visible over parts of the Mid-South

Parts of the region have the pleasure of experiencing a very rare Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, this evening.  We have seen reports from northeast AR, west and middle TN, northeast MS, north AL, NC, VA, and many places in the northeast U.S.

This particular aurora event was caused, according to SpaceWeather.com, by a coronal mass ejection (CME) that occurred around 1pm CDT today [10-24-11] and hit the Earth's magnetic field. The website states that "according to analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab, the impact caused a strong compression of Earth's magnetic field" and subsequent geomagnetic storm.  A CME (often associated with a solar flare) is an explosion on the Sun that happens when energy is suddenly released, producing a burst of radiation. Strong flares can reach the Earth's magnetic field, like the one today.  There is plenty of additional information for science "geeks" (like me!) at SpaceWeather.com and on Wikipedia (including animations and video).

It is very rare to see the Northern Lights this far south and red auroras are somewhat rare as well.  The red color is not completely understood, but scientists believe that they occur much higher above the Earth than typical geomagnetic storms (300-500km) and sometimes occur during intense geomagnetic storms. [More technical details on red auroras can be found here.]  The picture below was taken by Jay Malone in Corning, AR on Monday evening. Enjoy!

Photo of Aurora Borealis over Corning, AR on 10/24/11, courtesy Jay Malone
Did you see the aurora?  Let us know below, or send any pictures to photos@memphisweather.net.

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5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Yes, we saw the red curtain in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia. The Aurora Borealis peaked in brightness before 10 pm and faded thereafter. I found this Web site (and Jay's photo) while searching for information.

Sharon said...

I saw it last night in Jackson, TN. Didn't know what it was but it was pretty cool.

MWN/Erik said...

Thanks for visiting the site, Anonymous in WV. Glad you got to see it as well!

Sharon, Now you know! :-) I didn't see it, but the pics I have seen are really cool!

Anonymous said...

Yes we saw the northern lights last night in Northern Maine. They were spectacular, most beautiful that I've seen! As we were watching the sky a shooting star fell. It was amazing to see both a shooting star and the northern lights at the same time. It was breath taking. The stars were so big and beautiful! What an absolutely georgeous night to sky gaze!

MWN/Erik said...

Thanks for checking in from Maine! I'm sure you get a few more opportunities to see this amazing spectacle than we do here in Dixie! Would love to see them like you do! Have a great day.

--Erik