Best Photos From This Weekend’s Extraordinary Northern Lights

Northern Lights Over a Forest

Photo: surangastock/Depositphotos (Not a photo of the actual current event.)

When you think about viewing the Northern Lights, places like Iceland, Norway, and Alaska come to mind. But people living much farther south got a treat on Friday when a severe geomagnetic storm made the aurora visible across the United States, Europe, and even New Zealand as Southern Lights.

The internet began lighting up with incredible photos of the phenomenon, as many were amazed by what they witnessed. “Aurora Borealis? At this time of year? At this time of day? In this part of the country?” wrote an amazed X (formerly Twitter) user from Scotland.

So what is a geomagnetic storm, and why did it push this dazzling light show so far south?  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) defines a geomagnetic storm as “a major disturbance of Earth's magnetosphere.” In this case, the disturbance was caused by explosions of plasma and magnetic fields from the Sun’s corona called coronal mass ejections (CMEs). Researchers saw at least seven CMEs on May 10 when NOAA released a geomagnetic storm warning.

The storm peaked on Friday evening when it reached an extreme level known as G5. This is the first time this has occurred since October 2023. Aside from sparking Northern Lights in unusual places, this type of storm can also disrupt satellites, power grids, and other means of communication.

The solar flares responsible for the storms come from a cluster of sunspots 17 times larger than Earth. The area started acting up last Wednesday and remained active over the weekend. If you couldn't see this aurora for yourself, keep scrolling to see some of the best images of the historic event. And, if you live in the United States, bookmark this aurora dashboard to see when they may be visible again.

An extreme geomagnetic storm made the Northern Lights visible in large parts of Europe and the United States.

Here are some of our favorite photos of the auroras captured from around the web.

 

Netherlands

 

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A post shared by Albert Dros (@albertdrosphotography)

 

Canada – Banff National Park

 

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A post shared by Herry Himanshu (@herry.with.an.e)

 

United Kingdom

 

England – Lake District National Park

 

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A post shared by ℝℕ ℍℝℕ (@martin_hornsey)

 

Ohio

 

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A post shared by Alex Farmer (@alexfarmerphoto)

 

Slovenia

 

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A post shared by DejanSLR (@dejanslr)

 

Tasmania

 

Spain

 

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A post shared by David | Fotografía (@livetgn)

 

Colorado

 

Italy

 

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A post shared by Shane Ware (@shanewarephoto)

 

Germany

 

Arizona

 

United Kingdom

 

Switzerland

 

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A post shared by Valentina (@foto_valentina)

 

Ireland

 

The rare event even sparked some funny memes.

Related Articles:

Heat-Changing Mug Reveals the Aurora Borealis When Filled with a Hot Drink

The Most Spectacular Photos and Videos of the 2024 Great North American Eclipse

Rare Photos of the Aurora Australis (Southern Lights) Filling the Sky With Energy

Most Enchanting Aurora Borealis Photos From the Northern Lights Photographer of the Year Contest

Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Contributing Writer and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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