Northern lights put on show for stargazers across parts of Philadelphia region

The spectacular show was captured from South Jersey to northeastern Pennsylvania.

Saturday, May 11, 2024
Northern lights puts on show for stargazers across parts of the region
Northern lights puts on show for stargazers across parts of Philadelphia region

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- An unusually strong solar storm hitting Earth produced stunning displays of color in the skies across parts of the Philadelphia region early Saturday morning.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a rare severe geomagnetic storm warning when a solar outburst reached Earth on Friday afternoon, hours sooner than anticipated.

This is NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center's first severe geomagnetic storm watch in nearly 20 years.

The solar flares are associated with coronal mass ejections (CMEs) directed toward Earth. CMEs are expulsions of plasma and magnetic field from the sun's corona, the outermost part of the sun's atmosphere, according to the Space Weather Prediction Center.

When these ejections head toward Earth, taking as long as days or as little as 15 hours, they cause geomagnetic storms, which are disturbances in the magnetic field around the planet.

"Then fast-moving particles slam into our thin, high atmosphere, colliding with Earth's oxygen and nitrogen particles," according to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "As these air particles shed the energy they picked up from the collision, each atom starts to glow in a different color," giving us the aurora borealis in the northern hemisphere and the aurora australis in the southern hemisphere.

Quicker clearing of skies just before dawn in our region allowed for better chances to see the northern lights Saturday. The celestial show was captured from South Jersey to northeastern Pennsylvania.

The geomagnetic storm is expected to last through the weekend. You can share your photos with Action News here.

The SWPC recommends traveling away from city lights to experience the full brightness of the aurora and to be looking at the skies within two hours of midnight, between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. local time.

These storms also have the ability to potentially disrupt communications, the electric power grid, radio signals and satellite operations. As of Saturday, there were no immediate reports of disruptions.

Severe geomagnetic storms in October 2003 caused the northern lights to be seen as far south as Texas but it affected more than half of all Earth-orbiting spacecrafts and temporarily disrupted satellite TV and radio services. Additionally, several deep space missions had to be put in safe mode or completely shut down to prevent them from being disrupted.

ABC News and the Associated Press contributed to this report.