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Solar storm brings Northern Lights to skies across US

May 13

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A dazzling light display graced the night sky across America this past weekend, thanks to a rare yet powerful solar storm. The aurora borealis — commonly known as the Northern Lights — typically appears only in areas near the North Pole. However, due to increased solar activity, this captivating phenomenon was visible as far south as Florida starting on Friday, May 10.

“This is an unusual and potentially historic event,” Clinton Wallace, director of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration‘s (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center said.

NOAA space weather forecasters observed several coronal mass ejections (CMEs) from the sun. CMEs are powerful eruptions of plasma and magnetic fields from the sun’s corona. When directed at Earth, they trigger geomagnetic storms that can affect communication, power grids, navigation and satellite operations.

Two decades ago the largest of the sunspots ejected an enormous solar flare — one of the largest ever recorded at the time. After, a series of massive solar storms rushed towards Earth.

Over half of Earth-orbiting spacecraft were impacted, disrupting satellite TV and radio services. A Japanese scientific satellite was damaged beyond repair and deep-space missions went into safe mode or shutdown. Astronauts on the International Space Station sought cover from high radiation levels. Communication issues affected airline flights over the North Pole and Antarctic science groups. GPS systems for surveying and other purposes were also affected.

According to the NOAA, this weekend’s event was the strongest solar storm to hit Earth since 2003. While the agency issued warnings about potential impacts on power grids, communication networks and navigation systems, no major outages were reported.

Forecasters say the solar storm that extended the Northern Lights southward is expected to continue into the week of May 13, but it won’t be as strong.

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[KARAH RUCKER]

FINALLY THIS MORNING – WE LEAVE YOU WITH SOME VIEWS OF A COLORFUL NIGHT SKY BEAMING ACROSS AMERICA FROM OVER THE WEEKEND.

AND IT WAS ALL THANKS TO A RARE YET POWERFUL SOLAR STORM.

THE AURORA BOREALIS (BORE-EE-ALICE) OR NORTHERN LIGHTS CAN USUALLY BE SEEN ONLY IN AREAS NEAR THE NORTH POLE. BUT DUE TO INCREASED SOLAR ACTIVITY — A DAZZLING LIGHT DISPLAY WAS WITNESSED IN THE U-S AS FAR SOUTH AS FLORIDA.

THIS WAS THE STRONGEST SOLAR STORM TO HIT EARTH SINCE 2003, ACCORDING TO THE “U.S. NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION.”

THE AGENCY ISSUED A WARNING THAT THE STORM COULD AFFECT POWER GRIDS, COMMUNICATION NETWORKS, AND NAVIGATION SYSTEMS.

BUT NO MAJOR OUTAGES WERE REPORTED–

GIVING PEOPLE ACROSS THE US AND THE WORLD A CHANCE TO SNAP A FEW PHOTOS AND TAKE IN THE RARE EVENT ABOVE.