If you live in the northern hemisphere and happened to glance up Friday night, you might have been surprised by a beautiful showing of the aurora borealis (Northern Lights) as back-to-back solar flares caused strong geomagnetic storms around the Earth.
Accuweather explains that the solar flares create auroras when radiation from the sun hits charged protons in the atmosphere, creating effects that are most visible at the poles and that weaken as they approach the equator. The term aurora borealis refers to the effects seen radiating southward from the north pole, while the inverse effect seen coming from the south pole is known as the aurora australis. The ultimate result is beautiful, shimmering colors arcing through the sky. While Friday's lights were pretty incredible in and of themselves, Saturday night is expected to be even more glamorous, with visibility stretching as far south as Maryland.
"Solar wind conditions suggest that this activity will continue for many hours and aurora watchers should be in for a good treat," National Weather Service said in a statement. Activity is expected to peak around midnight, and dark areas with sparse cloud cover will be the best viewing zones.
On Friday, skywatchers the globe over were watching out for the Northern Lights' approach and taking awe-inspiring photos along the way. Here are 15 of the most fantastically beautiful shots.
Vieremä, Savo, Finland:
Liverpool, Nova Scotia, Canada:
Mount Washington Observatory, N.H.:
Cape Sable Island, Nova Scotia
Rangeley Lakes, Maine:
Abisko NP, Swedish Lapland:
Quebec City, Canada:
And off the ISS in low space orbit:
As a free bonus, here's what the aurora borealis looks like as the space station glides by: