Aurora lights up the sky in geomagnetic storm (2024)

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2:46 a.m. ET, May 11, 2024

Incredible lighthouse picture from Maine

From CNN's Chris Lau

Aurora lights up the sky in geomagnetic storm (1)

Among a flurry of surreal images capturing the dazzling auroras is one taken by Benjamin Williamson of a lighthouse in Portland, Maine.

"It's one of the most incredible things I've ever seen, the awe and wonder," Williamson told CNN.

He said he used a long-exposure technique to snap the shot, but did not edit it.

Watch the full interview with Williamson here.

12:26 a.m. ET, May 11, 2024

Things could be about to ramp up

From CNN's Chris Lau

If you still haven't seen the aurora, hold on for another 30 minutes to an hour, according to CNN meteorologist Chad Myers.

The next wave of coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, which cause the aurora, is about to arrive, he said.

"Just wait aminute because things are goingto start to ramp up here," he said, adding that the increase could arrive "anytime now."
"When it comes, getoutside, get ready, put yourcoat on."

For those who are too busy to witness the phenomenon tonight, Myers said the aurora is expected to last three nights.

12:03 a.m. ET, May 11, 2024

Why does the aurora last for a weekend?

By CNN's Chris Lau

Aurora lights up the sky in geomagnetic storm (2)

Generally, it takes just eight minutes for light to travel 93 million miles to the Earth from the sun, but astrophysicist Janna Levin said the energized particles causing the current wave of aurora travel a lot slower, causing the phenomenon to last for the weekend.

"Some of these mass ejections are trillions of kilograms," she said. "They're slower. So they're taking longer, but still hours, maybe tens of hours."
11:58 p.m. ET, May 10, 2024

Here's how the solar storm looks in the South and on the East Coast

The aurora was visible across the East Coast and in the South Friday.

Here's how it looked in Chester, South Carolina.

Down in Florida, waves of color swam through the sky.

Up north in New Jersey, a purple-ish haze could be seen in the sky.

12:38 a.m. ET, May 11, 2024

Will solar storms get more intense and risky in the future?

From CNN's Chris Lau

The answer is probably not in the short term, according toastrophysicist Hakeem Oluseyi.

He said scientists study what is constantly happening on the surface of the sun and have found a pattern.

“Geological data shows us that in the past the sun was way more active than it is today. It has cycles where it goes very quiet ... and you have events that show that the solar activity was much, much greater,” he told CNN. “So there's no evidence that we're going to see those big maxima this cycle."

But the astrophysicist also spoke of a caveat - the limitations of modern science.

“Even though it's predictable in the short term, we still don't quite understand what creates the magnetic fields in the sun,” he said, adding: “That's why NASA has so many satellites looking at the sun.”

11:03 p.m. ET, May 10, 2024

In Pictures: Auroras light the sky during rare solar storm

From CNN Digital's Photo Team

Aurora lights up the sky in geomagnetic storm (3)

A series of solar flares and coronal mass ejections from the sun are creating dazzling auroras across the globe.

The rare solar storm may also disrupt communications. The last time a solar storm of this magnitude reached Earth was in October 2003, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center.

See more photos of the aurora from tonight.

11:31 p.m. ET, May 10, 2024

Behind dazzling aurora could lie “real danger,” Bill Nye the Science Guy says

From CNN's Chris Lau

Aurora lights up the sky in geomagnetic storm (4)

The massive solar storm could present “a real danger,” especially with the modern world relying so much on electricity, according to Bill Nye the Science Guy, a science educator and engineer.

Scientists are warning an increase in solar flares and coronal mass ejections from the sun have the potential to disrupt communication on Earth into the weekend. Solar flares can affect communications and GPS almost immediately because they disrupt Earth’s ionosphere, or part of the upper atmosphere. Energetic particles released by the sun can also disrupt electronics on spacecraft and affect astronauts without proper protection within 20 minutes to several hours.

In comparison to tonight's event, Nye drew comparisons with another incident in 1859, known as the Carrington Event, when telegraph communications were severely affected.

“The other thing, everybody, that is a real danger to our technological society, different from 1859, is how much we depend on electricity and our electronics and so on,” Nye said. "None ofus really in the developedworld could go very long without electricity."

He noted that there are systems in place to minimize the impact, but “stuff might go wrong,” stressing that not all transformers are equipped to withstand such a solar event.

“It depends on the strength of the event and it depends on how much of our infrastructures are prepared for this the sort of thing,” he said.

This post has been updated with more details on solar flares' impact on electronics.

10:58 p.m. ET, May 10, 2024

Here's where clouds will block the view of the northern lights in the US

From CNN's Angela Fritz

Aurora lights up the sky in geomagnetic storm (6)

After an incredibly stormy week, most of the Lower 48 has clear skies to see the northern lights. But there are some areas where clouds and rainy weather are spoiling the view.

A deck of clouds is blocking the sky in the Northeast, from parts of Virginia into Maine, as an area of low pressure spins off the East Coast.

In the Midwest, the aurora will be hard to see through thick clouds in parts of Wisconsin, Michigan — including the Upper Peninsula — and Illinois.

A stripe of clouds is tracking across Texas, including Dallas-Forth Worth, and into Louisiana.

And in the Southwest, patchy clouds across the the Four Corners region could make the northern lights difficult to spot.

10:38 p.m. ET, May 10, 2024

Aurora seen at least as far south as Georgia

Barely visible to the naked eye, the aurora can be seen in Atlanta in the 10 p.m. ET hour.

It is easier to see through photographs using a long exposure.The photos below, taken by CNN's Eric Zerkel and Emily Smith, used 3- and 10-second exposures.

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Aurora lights up the sky in geomagnetic storm (2024)
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