Full of surprises. That’s how I’d describe last night’s spectacular geomagnetic storm. From the breakup and expansion of a quiet auroral arc at midnight to the explosion of bright rays and pulsating lights at 2:30 to dawn’s majestic coda of moon and planets.
The show reminded me of major storms of the past in for its variety of forms, brilliance, duration and even color. Yes, color. Whites and pale greens ruled, but purple-pinks made their appearance around 2:40 a.m. and a vivid “last hurrah” of pink curtains swept by the moon during twilight.
I forget his name now, but a stranger I met on the road this morning who made the trip after finishing work at midnight kept repeating: “I’ve never seen them like this. Incredible.” We stared up till our necks hurt.
One thing that really sinks in when you’re watching the northern lights is how touched we are by the sun. Sure, it’s 93 million miles away, but not last night. Billions of its electronic emissaries were up there tickling the air until it fluoresced green and purple with delight. We are fortunate to live at a time when we can point to the aurora’s cause. Storms from this week’s big sunspot came home to roost right here on Earth.
Another thing about the aurora and something many of you may have experienced last night. On several occasions it “felt” like the display was winding up, settling down. You thought maybe you could finally go to bed. Uh … no. After each lull, the show would regather its momentum and flare to a new peak. Even at 4:30 a.m., curtains billowed in the eastern sky with tall rays, now fading in twilight, still lancing across the northern sky.
As if the aurora wasn’t enough, the cherry on the sundae was the rising of the crescent moon accompanied by Jupiter, Venus and Aldebaran. The moon seemed the center of an clock with the big hand pointed at Jupiter and the little hand at Venus.
Will we see more aurora tonight? I’ll let you be the judge. NOAA space weather forecasters predict a small chance for minor storms from effects of the coronal mass ejection fired off by last Thursday’s big X-class flare.
The Kp index has been in the red at “5” or higher all day. That gives me hope we’ll be in for chapter two of this tale tonight.
I’ll be back out if it’s clear and hope you’ll do the same.
For more photos of the aurora, click HERE. If motion’s your thing, check out this sweet video time lapse by Matthew Moses of Cloquet, Minn. Here’s another time lapse made by my colleague Andrew Krueger at the Duluth News Tribune.