Sunday Night Could Be Another Good Chance for Aurora Chasers

In case you missed it, an extraordinary geomagnetic storm over the weekend produced some of the most intense aurora sightings since 2003.

The geomagnetic activity over the past few days has been one for the books, producing once-in-a-lifetime or once-in-a-generation aurora displays.

Auroras could be spotted as far south as Illinois and Oregon with the naked eye, but cameras could capture the dancing lights even farther south.

The slew of auroral activity stems from a particularly bustling area on the sun known as active region 3664. The region — measuring about 17 times the diameter of Earth — is marked with a cluster of dark splotches, known as sunspots. Last week, the sunspot group launched multiple eruptions from its surface — called coronal mass ejections — toward Earth. Coronal mass ejections are large clouds of solar energy and magnetized plasma that can temporarily disturb Earth’s magnetosphere, if aimed correctly. Some solar particles travel along Earth’s magnetic field into our upper atmosphere, exciting molecules and releasing photons of light, or the aurora.

The good news: You may have another chance to sky-gaze and hit the visual jackpot.

The sun will continue to send more activity to Earth on Sunday night and early this week, as NOAA predicts the scale of severity could reach level G4 or G5 (G5 is the most intense).

By Tuesday morning, NOAA forecasts that geomagnetic storm activity will diminish to minor levels (G1). During a minor storm, only higher latitudes such as northern Michigan or Maine typically see auroras.

One space weather physicist collected aurora observations on X from every state in the United States, and from much of the Northern Hemisphere — including rare places like Italy, Austria, London, Mexico and India. Auroras were even spotted in tropical locations, including Puerto Rico and the Bahamas.

In the Southern Hemisphere, the lights — known as the aurora australis — were photographed in Chile, Argentina, New Zealand and Australia.

You can boost your chances of seeing the dancing magnetic collisions by using something more sensitive than your eyes: your smartphone or anything else with a camera sensor.

The storm generated aurora visible across the US and beyond with the help of some technology most of us carry around all the time — even when you see almost nothing with the naked eye.

*** I can attest to this!! My brother, an hour north of me, sent me an image with the faintest hints of striations of color. I took to the window, and saw nothing. But a brief jaunt into the yard with my iPhone changed everything. I pointed to the north, east, south, and directly overhead here in West Michigan.