Aurora Blazes Overnight Over Duluth, Minn.

Lots of pale green, dancing rays filled the northern sky north of Duluth shortly after midnight this morning March 9. Details: 20mm lens at f/2.8, ISO 800 and 7 second exposure. Photo: Bob King

Around 9:20 p.m. CST Thursday evening, we finally got to see a few pulsing patches of aurora in the lower half of the northern sky. Moonlight was bright, but the aurora held its own. Storm activity jumped to “5” on the Kp index at the time, but only a half hour later, the display faded back to a series of extensive but wispy rays across the north. They showed better in the camera than to the eye.

I looked out my front door about 9;20 p.m. Thursday and caught the start of the display. Although a little dim at the time, it was easily to watch the patches change shape and brightness. Photo: Bob King
A spectacular coronal aurora crowned the top of the sky around 1 a.m. this morning March 9 during a peak in the display. The coronal form develops during large geomagnetic storms. Photo: Bob King
A second view of the corona. It was faint but still a spectacle near the bright moon at the bottom of the frame. Photo: Bob King

Activity slowed for a time but around 11:30 p.m. the Kp took a big leap into the red zone. That’s whem show really got going. From 11:30 p.m. through at least 1:30 Friday morning, the northern lights sizzled here in Duluth. The whole northern sky plus a fair chunk to the east were alive with rays at midnight. Even better, and what doesn’t show in the still photos, were the wonderful, repeating waves of auroral light that rippled across the northern sky like expanding waves of water when a pebble is dropped in a pond. Beautiful! Absolutely alive with movement. The display was much brighter and easier to see than at 10 p.m. but still somewhat washed out by moonlight.

This frame grab from the OVATION Auroral Forecast shows the visibility of the northern lights as of 2:20 a.m. CST (8:20 UT) this morning March 9. Credit: NOAA

Take a look at the OVATION forecast (above) that showed the extent of the auroral oval at 2:20 a.m. CST. If the green band was over your house, aurora was all over your sky. The red line indicates how far away viewers on the ground could see the aurora. Because the northern lights dance at least 60 miles high in the ionosphere (far above most clouds), aurora is visible as far away as 600 mph from the oval’s edge. The closer to the red line you’re located, the lower the aurora will appear in your northern sky.

Times shown are Universal or Greenwich time. To convert to EST, subtract 5 hours, CST 6 hours and so on. My thanks to Mooni for sharing the link.

I’m tempted to stay up all night, but even amateur astronomers need their sleep. I better get some; the space weather forecast calls for a good chance for auroras again tonight. Thank you all for sharing your observations!

84 Responses

  1. Jennifer Rognholt

    I went out and viewed them slightly… hard to see but caught glimpses of them… very windy but a really cool sight

  2. sally anderson

    what time would be the best to head out- I was thinking of drivng up Jean Duluth rd area to get away from city lights.

  3. Diana

    Where in Duluth is a good spot to view/photograph them? I am in west Duluth so I haven’t spotted them yet.

  4. Joanna

    Hi Bob, thanks for the updates, this is great! My driver and I came from the cities in hopes to view the lights! We arw now on the expressway toward Two Harbors and have yet to see anyrhing. Maybe the trees are blocking our view. Do you have a suggestion on where to go?? A road to turn on or is Lake Sup our best bet? We have GPS. Thanks so much!!

    1. astrobob

      The lights are out, but they’ve dimmed since 9 p.m. Hard to say if and when they’ll pick up again. I’ll be watching and updating as needed.

  5. Jennifer Rognholt

    Even an hour south of Duluth they are dim.. I catch quick glimpses of green throughout the northern horizon… I just wish it wasn’t so bright with the moon .. I wouldn’t mind seeing more … love your blog btw.. love the updates.. keep em comin. 🙂 I was told midnight is the best times for viewing down here..

  6. Mooni

    Hey Bob,

    I’m looking here at this map and it doesn’t look promising for Lake Ontario, NY. The map says that there’s no chance anyone can view it beyond the red line. You seem to give some promising responses.. and so.. do you think I should risk the 30 minute drive out to the lake and hope for the best?

    1. astrobob

      That is an excellent map! I’m glad you included the link. The red line is quite close to the truth on the ground. What I would do wait till the Kp index is updated (every three hours. Next is midnight CST) and see what the trend is. If up, it may be worth your while. If static or dropping into the yellow zone, I’d stay home.

  7. Bruce

    Spent 90 minutes up along the expressway — nothing but icy roads:(. Maybe tomorrow. Need some sleep!

  8. tim tilberg

    To my friends still at Brighton Beach, try going up that road towards Lester golf course north about a mile. There are some really good clearings, and we were finally able to see our first glimmers. I think the moon off the lake was too much, coupled with trees.

    1. Mooni

      Are you near Rochester, NY? I know there’s a Brighton Beach in NYC and there’s a town named Brighton near Rochester.

  9. Natalie

    Hi Bob! I looked at the map and it seems Chicago won’t see it. But since the KP jumped to a 5 should I keep an eye out for them? What time? Or do you think there will be a chance tomorrow? I really want to see them! Thanks for the pics!!

    1. astrobob

      Kp 5 is generally a good indicator for auroras in the northern U.S. For Chicago, that would be fringy. Yes, there’s a continued chance for auroras tomorrow.

  10. Andrew

    Green arcs across most of the northern sky, occasional movement visible and occasional rays. Everything kind of hazy, probably because of the bright moon. It does seem to be getting better.

  11. Andrew

    It’s getting really good out here. Very active lights, filling the northern sky north of Duluth

    1. astrobob

      The lights are great right now! Lots of rays and flaming seen here in Duluth around midnight and continuing.

    2. ptschett

      I spent from 11 PM – 1 AM near Felton, MN and saw a pretty good show. I can’t see anything from my home in Fargo but I think if you were north of Reile’s Acres/Oakport or east of Dilworth you’d be able to see them yet.

  12. Barb

    I just saw a bit of it from South Superior. I have a great view of the northern sky, but quite a bit of light from City of Superior, Duluth and Full moon.

  13. astrobob

    ALERT! The aurora is excellent right now (midnight-12:30 a.m.) with many active rays and beautiful flaming all across the northern sky and spilling to the east as seen from Duluth, Minn. New picture in blog to follow in a minute.

  14. Aaron

    Your site here has really helped me, Bob! I’m from indianapolis and the NOAA kP is showing a 6 for the next 3 hours, do you think there is any hope that I may see them or should I call it quits? I had friends who saw the aurora here just this past october 24rth but I can’t find what the kP was up to then.

    1. astrobob

      If you can get to a dark sky in a reasonable amount of time I suspect you’d see a small display low in the northern sky. Just an educated guess.

  15. Aaron

    I’m in Indianapolis, Bob. I noticed the kP index is up to 6 now. Do you think there’s any chance I could see them if I got out of the city?

    1. astrobob

      Yes, it’s possible though it will be lower on the horizon for your latitude. Great view now in Duluth.

  16. Andrew

    Best show I’ve seen in 5+ years in Duluth. Maybe not the brightest because if the effect of the moon tonight, but certainly the most movement covering the whole northern sky and overhead

  17. Cindy

    Live in LeSueur county. 50 miles south of metro. Saw pale green just above the nne horizon about 12:30 to 12:50. A few short pillars. At least something down here. Thank you for all the updates and the excellent info!!

    1. astrobob

      You’re welcome. For others planning to go out, the aurora has now expanded across the top of the sky to form a corona and into the southern sky near the moon as of 1 a.m. CST. Rayed forms plus mushy glows all in motion. This should be visible as far south as Chicago.

  18. Nissa

    Saw them faintly in the south metro. Some good spikes but mostly just yellow blur in the sky. Wish we could be up where you guys are. But it’s still beautiful none the less! Thanks for the blog updates!

  19. Maiya

    We are driving on 3 west near silver bay and the lights are extremely dramatic! Driving north now away from the lake

  20. alicia

    Is that all for the show or will they keep happening often or what? I live in northern California right off the Oregon border. Crescent city/ klamath area. Can we be on the look out tomorrow night (Friday) if so around what time should we watch? And out towards our ocean or what? LOL can u tell I’m new to this? LOL thx for the pretty pics everyone makes me really wanna see it.

    1. astrobob

      Hi Alicia,
      It may not be all for the show. There’s a chance for more tonight. I hope you’ll get to see them.

  21. Anant Shrotriya

    Hi Bob – Just want to share that I had a blast tonight. I was stationed for one hour at the wayside rest area adjacent to Split Rock river (from 11:30 PM to 12:30 AM). What a cosmic dance it was.

    I wished there were more colors but may be due to bright moon, the colors were muted. It was anyways a fantastic show.

    Thanks for your help thru this.

    1. astrobob

      You took the risk and hit it just right from a great location. I was thinking of you when the aurora finally broke loose around 11:30. Congratulations!

  22. Julianty

    I live in Scotland. We went up to a Dundee Law Hill last night to try our luck. But it was very cloudy and couldn’t see any. Do you think it’s possible to see from here? We are going to try again tonight.

    1. astrobob

      Yes, auroras were over Scotland last night from my read on the oval. There is indeed a chance to see them again tonight.

  23. Mike

    Good morning Bob! Where can I buy a dimmer switch for the moon? The N. Lights were amazing last nihgt. The best I have seen since I was a kid. The moon spoiled some of the intensity but they were amazing and arched directly overhead and on to the south about 3am. I hope more like this are in the future!
    Take care.

    1. astrobob

      Couldn’t agree more. A great display. The most kinematic I’ve seen in at least several years.

  24. Barb

    Sounds like I went to bed a little early! I have a quick question. Why is the clock on the entries of the blog off by 1 hour?

      1. Tim Tilberg

        For instance, the time of your reply to Barb states 8:45 a.m, and it’s only 8:06 yet. I assume it is displaying in Eastern time.

        1. astrobob

          Yes, I see what you mean. It must be in Eastern time though I don’t know why. I thought the Areavoices blog network was based in the Midwest.

  25. Laurie K.

    Thanks for your updates!!! I was at Stoney Pt. from 9-11 pm and went home. Got another text from and decided to head out again. I went outside of Two Harbors until 2:45 am. What an awesome show! It would have been even better without the full moon. Had a couple of snowmobilers stop to see if I was ok. They must think I’m nuts. As I was heading home the lights seemed to get even better. Wish I could have stayed all night!!

    1. astrobob

      Thanks for writing in. Glad to hear the sky was still afire that late. Like you I wished I could have stayed up all night. We’re expecting more tonight.

  26. Dave Jensch

    Looks like you had a late night. We had a great view out in Esko although the bright moon hurt. Saw you on 6pm news. Great job!

    1. astrobob

      While I love teaching, TV still makes me a little nervous. It’s all via a remote screen with an earplug, etc.

  27. Eric

    Hi Bob- new to your reporting but sincerely loving it! I live in the cities and am considering driving up to the Cromwell (west of Duluth) area for the night in an attempt to catch whatever is left of the light show. Do you think I have a decent shot at seeing some aurora?? If so, do you think the 9pm-midnight time period would give me the best opportunity? Thanks much!!

    1. astrobob

      Assuming the forecast holds true, you’ll have a good shot at seeing something that far north. By the way, another storm from a new flare is on its way for Saturday night-Sunday morning.

  28. Heidi

    Do you feel that tonight we’ll seen them? It’s not as clear tonight as it was last night (things could change I understand this) I’m wondering if we’ll still have a chance to see them tonight. What is your opinion.

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