A powerful geomagnetic storm triggered vivid auroras across North America and Europe on Sunday, sending the northern lights down to latitudes that rarely get to see these stunning formations.
Forecasters watched as a strong late-week solar flare sent a G3 geomagnetic storm crashing into Earth’s magnetic field. The G-scale ranges from G1 (minor) on the low end to G5 (extreme) on the high end.
This surge of plasma from the Sun’s corona, called a coronal mass ejection (CME), allowed charged particles to filter into the upper atmosphere around the magnetic north pole.
The charged particles hitting the upper atmosphere ionized gasses like oxygen and nitrogen, leading to the curtains of vividly colourful lights we know as the aurora borealis.
Stronger geomagnetic storms afford greater opportunities for the northern lights to creep toward lower latitudes. A storm of the magnitude we saw this weekend would typically allow the aurora to be seen as far south as the northern Great Lakes in North America and portions of England and Denmark in Europe.
However, this weekend’s event stunned onlookers with aurora sightings as far south as Ukraine and the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia.
WATCH: Northern Lights dance across Alberta horizon
Widespread clouds across Canada likely hampered the view for many provinces, but portions of Alberta, Saskatchewan, and northern sections of Ontario and Quebec stood the best opportunity to see the lights in all their splendour.
Check out some of the incredible visuals that folks posted on social media on Sunday across Canada, the U.S., and Europe, below.
Thumbnail image courtesy: @treetanner