Photos show northern lights illuminating the sky around New England

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BOSTON – The northern lights were very active late Friday into Saturday morning in parts of New England.

The Northern Lights is one of nature’s most spectacular displays, captivating observers with their vibrant and dynamic light shows. 

Friday night’s show did not disappoint! The rare and intense geomagnetic activity resulted in stunning and widespread displays of the Northern Lights, visible far beyond their usual high-latitude regions.

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Northern lights in Wilton, New Hampshire.

Christine Beehler


What causes the northern lights?

First, a gigantic sunspot formed on the surface of the Sun. This sunspot is 16 times larger than Earth!

Northern lights in Belmont.

Caroline Daskalakis


That sunspot sent a vast amount of plasma and magnetic fields in a G5 solar storm, the highest level geomagentic storm and classified as “extreme”. This was the strongest solar storm in 21 years. 

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Northern lights in New Hampshire.

Austin DeSisto


When these charged particles reach Earth, they interact with the planet’s magnetic field, causing heightened geomagnetic activity.

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CBS Boston


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Northern lights in Camden, Maine.

Annie


What causes the different colors that were seen?

Upon reaching the upper atmosphere, these charged particles, mainly electrons and protons, collide with gases like oxygen and nitrogen. These collisions excite the gas atoms, causing them to release energy in the form of light. The type of gas and the altitude at which the collision occurs determine the color of the aurora. For instance, oxygen at higher altitudes (above 150 miles) produces red auroras, while at lower altitudes (up to 60 miles) it emits green, the most common color. Nitrogen, on the other hand, can produce blue or purplish-red auroras.

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CBS Boston


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Northern lights in Madbury, New Hampshire.

Matt Fisher


Beyond their visual splendor, such powerful solar storms can have significant impacts on technology and infrastructure. G5-level storms can induce geomagnetic currents strong enough to disrupt power grids, interfere with satellite operations, and affect communication systems. For example, Starlink CEO Elon Musk reported their satellite-based internet service is “under a lot of pressure.”

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Northern lights in Worcester.

Hollis Baguskas


When’s the next time to see the northern lights?

If you missed last night’s show, there is still a chance Saturday night and Sunday night could offer a dazzling follow-up.  

The obvious caveat: all this is weather permitting. Tonight does feature at least a few clouds in southern New England. Sunday night looks like a good opportunity if the solar energy is still around. 

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