Rare northern lights seen across Arizona’s night sky due to extreme geomagnetic storm

May 11, 2024, 9:51 AM | Updated: 2:16 pm

PHOENIX — Did you stay up late Friday night to catch the rare occasion of northern lights seen from Arizona? If not, you may have more chances over the weekend.

The rare sight was due to an extreme (G5) geomagnetic storm caused by sunspot region 3664, which is 17 times the diameter of the earth, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“It’s an interesting event because you learn about how Earth’s magnetic field changes and twists under extreme conditions,” Assistant Professor Katrina Bossert from ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration told KTAR News. 

The last time a storm this strong was observed was October 2003, when outages and damages were observed in Sweden and South Africa.

Officials say higher frequency radio communications, GPS services, power grids and satellites are among some of the technologies that can be affected.

The storm created red-pink hues that were seen across the metro Phoenix area and as far south as the Arizona-Mexico border.

“Most people here will see red, maybe if you’re lucky, a little bit of green,” Bossert said.

Will the northern lights be viewable in Arizona on Saturday?

One indication that the storming could continue into the weekend was the amount of coronal mass ejections (CMEs) — large outputs of plasma and magnetic field from the sun — that NOAA officials tracked were headed toward the earth.

Plus, two strong solar flares occurred overnight.

“The sun has a solar cycle of about 11 years and we are really close to solar maximum and headed into getting close to the peak of this cycle,” Bossert said.

The geomagnetic storms could be active as long as region 3664 is in view, rotating away from the earth “over the next several days,” according to NOAA.

As of 5:40 a.m. on Saturday, NOAA predicted storming “of varying intensity will persist through at least Sunday.”

It added that lights should be visible again Saturday night, weather permitting. The forecast is clear for Phoenix on Saturday night, according to the National Weather Service.

We want to hear from you.

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Rare northern lights seen across Arizona’s night sky due to extreme geomagnetic storm