Green and purple lights lit up the sky as far south as Missouri Monday night as a “moderate” geomagnetic storm made the northern lights visible to the naked eye—and the Space Weather Prediction Center says it could happen again Tuesday night.
Washington State to as far east as Michigan and Pennsylvania saw green, purple and even red pillars of light as the phenomenon became visible late Monday night into the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Amateur star gazers shared photos and timelapses from around the world, including from Canada and Europe, where one Scottish couple managed to tie the knot under the brightly-lit sky.
Experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the geomagnetic storm that caused the rare display was likely the result of an eruption on the sun late last week that sent plasma and magnetic fields hurling away from the sun.
Researchers with the Space Weather Prediction Center estimate the aurora could be seen again Tuesday night by residents in Washington, Idaho, Montana, the Dakotas, Minnesota, Michigan, Wisconsin and even the northern tip of Maine .
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“It was just an unexpected but amazing way to celebrate our wedding," bride Rebecca MacDonald told STV News of the northern lights in Scotland. "We both feel so lucky to have seen such a spectacle and have (photographer Michael Carver) capture it so beautifully.”
The aurora borealis exists near the magnetic north pole and is caused when the sun sends electrically charged particles toward the Earth and they collide with gasses in Earth's upper atmosphere. The collisions cause billions of flashes of light to occur in sequence, causing the "dancing light" effect so commonly equated with the northern lights. Auroras occur almost every night in the northern hemisphere from May to August, the Canadian Space Agency says, but not all are visible from the United States or to the naked eye. The northern lights can sometimes only be seen with the help of a camera, but Monday's were "highly visible," Missouri photographer Tyler Schlitt told the New York Times.