Aurora spectacularis!

A wall of brilliant rays converges toward the zenith around 2:40 a.m. Sunday morning. Photo: Bob King

WOW! We had – are still having – a gorgeous aurora storm this early morning. Lots of people drove out to the countryside for a look. At 11:45 p.m. Saturday the aurora was a thick, fuzzy band of light. 15 minutes later it broke up into a maelstrom of green rays reaching nearly to the zenith.

Eerie shapes lit up the northern sky during the aurora’s initial “eruption” at midnight (CDT). Photo: Bob King

Every stage of aurora was visible over the next couple hours: flaming patches, a coronal display near the zenith, long curtains, multiple arcs. Around 1:30 a.m. the lights settled back into a simple arc … but not for long. By 2 a.m. there were several arcs and more rays, and at 2:35 a.m. the magnetosphere cut loose for what was the probably the most incredible display of the morning – a northern sky packed with brilliant, towering rays that raced to the zenith. Soon after, the rays softened and began flickering rapidly on and off, a phase of the aurora called “flaming”.

Sarah Lofald and Rich Hilton hold hands while watching the northern lights north of Duluth this morning. The couple were returning from a wedding, saw the aurora, and drove north of town for a spectacular view. Photo: Bob King

I hope you were able to see some of nature’s best sky painting. I shared it with some nice folks, who like me, parked their car along a country road and stayed up late.

I’ll have more photos later this morning, especially of the conjunction. I’d love to see and share some of your photos, too. Please e-mail them to

The bank of moving rays “taking off” in the northern sky was so intense at 2:40 a.m. it was almost scary. Photo: Bob King

Part of the powerful display around 2:30 a.m. Sunday. This covered the western sky. Photo: Bob King

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About astrobob

My name is Bob King and I work at the Duluth News Tribune in Duluth, Minn. as a photographer and photo editor. I'm also an amateur astronomer and have been keen on the sky since age 11. My modest credentials include membership in the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO) where I'm a regular contributor, International Meteorite Collectors Assn. and Arrowhead Astronomical Society. I also teach community education astronomy classes at our local planetarium.

23 thoughts on “Aurora spectacularis!

  1. We are so blessed to have you sharing all your amazing photographs of the night sky! Those of us sleeping in the middle of the night dreaming of the northern lights can rest assured that you’re capturing the real thing for us to enjoy the next day! Thanks for inspiring me.

  2. I was wondering if we will be seeing the Northern Lights again tonight, Sunday July 15th? It would be wonderful to see them again since I missed them last night!
    Thank you (:

  3. Your photos are breathtaking! I wish I was in your area last night. :)

    I was able to capture some of the show all the way down here in Buffalo, MN. Do you think there will be an encore tonight?

  4. Hi Bob,

    I cant thank you enough-the only reason i was able to see the lights was because of all the information you share( including location).. will send you some of the pictures we took- what a display..gorgeous!!

  5. Wow, some show !! My sky watching German Shepherd and I went in about 2am, half hour too soon, so missed the 2nd burst. The movement was incredible. We’re crossing our fingers (and claws) for another display tonight. Great photos, AB !

  6. Great shots as always. Thank you for your updates yesterday!! It was amazing to have them over head. Unfortunately I fell asleep around 1am- looks like they blew up soon after

    We took photos and the photos were much more green than how they appeared in real life. To me it looked milky white or almost absinthe-colored (when it mixes with water). Is it the extended exposure of a camera that makes the color really pop that way or am I colorblind?

    Conjunction was also amazing!! Can you believe both my phone and camera batteries died?! Got a couple pictures in of the conjunction so at least I was partially lucky. Thanks again for keeping the updates going

    • You’re welcome Roma. Nice description of the color – absinthe. Because of the longer exposure time, cameras can eke out color much better than the instantaneous view we get with the human eye. This was true with both film (ah, the old days) and the current digital chips.

  7. AstroBob you are a PRINCE!! Thank you so much for your time and talented loving care to share the adventure of the Aurora with the rest of us. My command of the language feels so inadequate, I will let the words of another artist like yourself say it for me:

    “Every beauty which is seen here by persons of perception resembles more than anything else that celestial source from which we all are come.”

    in Gratitude and Wonder always…Alex

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