This Weekend Offers a Rare Chance to see Auroras in Middle Georgia


Astronaut Jack Fischer took this photo of an aurora and atmopshere in 2017 (Photograph courtesy of NASA)

Take a picture of the sky this weekend and you might see something rare and beautiful: colorful auroras that are also known as the northern lights.

Many people who have posted photos online of the auroras from Friday night's sky have claimed that 10 p.m. through 2 a.m. is the best time to try to view them. 

Unlike the Northern Lights, the auroras that will appear this weekend in Middle Georgia will likely mostly only be able to be seen in camera pictures due to the sensitivity of a camera's sensors.

Most of the auroral light comes from oxygen atoms in the atmosphere when they are "excited from bombardment by charged solar particles" and can be compared to neon lights in the sky, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). 

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) space weather forecasters recently observed at least seven coronal mass ejections (CMEs) from the sun, with impacts expected to continue through Sunday, May 12, 2024. 

The NOAA defines CMEs as "explosions of plasma and magnetic fields from the sun’s corona" that cause geomagnetic storms when they are directed at Earth.

"This is an unusual and potentially historic event," said Clinton Wallace, Director of NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center.

In addition to causing beautiful auroras, geomagnetic storms can impact infrastructure in near-Earth orbit and on Earth's surface, which could interrupt things like "communications, the electric power grid, navigation, radio, and satellite operation", according to the NOAA. 

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An aurora as observed from the International Space Station (Photograph courtesy of NASA)
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