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Aurora Sky Show Hit and Miss

Photo of a river and the Aurora Borealis in Norway.
Aurora borealis in Norway. Photograph by Arild Heitmann, National Geographic Your Shot

Hopes were high on Thursday night for skies painted with northern lights. But it was more of a hit or miss sky event, depending on where folks looked.

Sky-watchers in the continental U.S., where these sky shows are seldom seen, were hoping to get a glimpse of the aurora borealis this week after the sun unleashed a massive cloud of charged particles toward Earth on January 7.

When such outbursts slam into our planet’s protective magnetic field, their particles funnel down into the atmosphere above the polar regions, where they spark northern lights. This week’s strong solar storm was expected to trigger a sky show that stretched farther south than usual, appearing in skies over big parts of North America and Europe.

However, according to the latest from NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center, the storm’s impact was weaker than expected, and it failed to produce the widespread geomagnetic fireworks that many were anticipating.  And sky-watchers’ frustration was evident on social media.

 

 

Others tried to stay hopeful…

@DaciaTryonDP chimed in, “Went Aurora hunting last night and saw… nothing. #AuroraBorealis you haven’t seen the end of me, we will meet someday.”

@DesignDiva_6h took a more philosophical approach, “Ah well, the randomness of it makes it so exciting! If it was predictable there would be no mystery :) #aurora

The timing of the storm, however, appears to have definitely favored Northern Europe. As a result the brightest, most stunning auroras were witnessed around the Arctic Circle and in places like Ireland,  Norway, Alaska, and the Northwest Territories in Canada.

 

 

 

“It was dark in Norway when the CME [coronal mass ejection] arrived, so observers there witnessed a nice display. By the time night fell over North America, however, the lights had faded. U.S. observers saw nothing remarkable,” according to online statements on spaceweather.com.

What went wrong with the prediction?

While it initially appeared that a large auroral display would grace our skies, further analysis of space weather data showed that Mother Nature had her own plans. A blast of solar wind from a coronal hole might have actually shoved the Earth-directed solar storm off course, resulting in our planet receiving only a glancing blow, instead of a full blast of space weather.

Follow Andrew Fazekas, the Night Sky Guy, on Twitter and Facebook.

Comments

  1. Anacaren
    Louisiana
    May 23, 12:12 am

    I love aurora lights,they are fantastic!!!THX TECHNOLOGY!!!

  2. Jake
    Woollamalloo
    January 13, 10:47 pm

    excellent photographs. miss the lights

  3. BOB
    hawii
    January 13, 11:17 am

    i am loving this story

  4. Nat Turner
    VA 23837
    January 10, 8:52 pm

    Sights previously reserved for snowmen,
    impressive what electricity can do.

  5. Jan Wiechowski
    Poland Nakło over Notecią province Kujawsko - Pomorskie
    January 10, 6:18 pm

    Especially this has never been interested, but the views are just amazing, if you do not see it does not believe …

  6. Elena williams
    Kitsap peninsula, WA
    January 10, 5:43 pm

    Sadly, we were socked in by clouds.

  7. Dwayne LaGrou
    Lapeer, Michigan
    January 10, 5:13 pm

    Well the solar cycle is still bound to surprise us, We all just need to be patient and keep those cameras loaded and ready. Mother Nature has a way of giving us what we want, Just not on our schedule. In the mean time, Keep uploading those great pix Norway and Ireland and of course The Yukon!!!