Saturday evening stargazers were treated to one of the trippiest natural phenomenons Earth has to offer: a naked eye-visible aurora borealis.
The “northern lights,” as they are often called, originate with our sun. Solar storms that occur there emit streams of charged particles which help to trigger the unusual light show once they reach Earth.
The magnetic fields emanating from our north and south poles pull the charged particles down into our upper (and sometimes lower) atmosphere, where some of them collide with the neutral particles that reside there.
The result of this collision is a beautiful glowing sky, though it’s usually visible only at higher latitudes. In the Northern Hemisphere it’s an “aurora borealis” and in the Southern Hemisphere it’s an “aurora australis.”
Saturday evening’s aurora borealis extended further south than is normal for these events, which meant it was visible in the northern U.S., Canada, and parts of Europe. It was the result of the sun spitting out a large burst of plasma on May 23, an event referred to as a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME).
The internet expressed its thanks for the cosmic light show in the only way it knows how: social media shares enhanced by stunning photography.
With additional reporting by Miriam Kramer.