Stunning Auroras May Return Saturday
Skywatcher Tony Wilder of Chippewa Falls, WI took this snapshot of green auroras reflecting off water during a strong geomagnetic storm on May 2-3, 2010. Photo by Tony Wilder of Chippewa Falls, WI. Used with permission.
Credit: Tony Wilder

A strong geomagnetic storm caused by solar wind set off a dazzling aurora display this week that treated skywatchers in North America to stunning red northern lights. ?And it could happen again Saturday.

The aurora light show occurred overnight May 2 when a stream of high-energy particles from the sun, the solar wind, hit the Earth's magnetic field to kick off a strong 15-hour geomagnetic storm, according to the website Spaceweather.com, which monitors space weather.

There's a 20 percent chance of a similar storm on Saturday, May 8, when the remnants from a recent coronal mass ejection may hit the Earth's magnetic field, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Skywatchers in the higher latitudes of Earth may get a good view. [More aurora photos.]

During Sunday's event, the solar wind interacted with Earth's magnetic field to create a huge aurora display that stretched to unusually low latitudes, making it visible below the Canadian border to some skywatchers in the northern United States. The red auroras during the display, in particular, stood out.

"The red auroras were just visible to the naked eye and easily captured by my Nikon D300," skywatcher Joseph Shaw of Bozeman, Montana, told Spaceweather.com. "Excellent treat!"

The auroras also dazzled Tony Wilder, of Chippewa Falls, Wisc., who photographed green auroras reflecting off a nearby body of water.

"It's been 5 years since I last saw the Northern Lights in my neck of the woods," Wilder wrote in a comment posted to Spaceweather.com. "And what a show it was!"

Wilder also said he spotted the International Space Station fly across his night sky view three separate times.

The space station is home to six astronauts and as large as a football field. It is the largest man-made structure in space and can easily be seen from Earth by the unaided human eye.

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