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Storm-boosted auroras dazzle skywatchers around the world (photos)

The sun awakened once again.

A flurry of charged particles ejected from the sun on Wednesday (Aug. 17) supercharged the auroras, which shone spectacularly above Earth overnight.

The storm was classified as a moderate-sized or G2-class storm, according to SpaceWeather.com (opens in new tab) — and that's not all that's coming from our sun.

A new pair of flares were associated with a fresh coronal mass ejection (CME), or cloud of solar plasma, from a sunspot known as AR3078. The CME may cause a slightly stronger (G3-class) geomagnetic storm on Thursday (Aug. 18) and Friday (Aug. 19) after it hits Earth, according to forecasts from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

While the CME is expected to only graze Earth's magnetic field, according to SpaceWeather.com, it may still produce stunning auroras as charged solar particles interact with molecules high in our atmosphere.

Related: Hyperactive sunspot just hurled a huge X-class solar flare into space

flare emerging from sun at bottom right

The Solar and Heliophysics Observatory spacecraft captured a coronal mass ejection from the sun on Aug. 17, 2022. (Image credit: SOHO/ESA & NASA)

Such ramped-up space weather suggests that the sun is beginning to wake up from the more quiescent phase of its 11-year-cycle of activity.

This year has seen far more sunspots on the sun's surface, which is where magnetic activity clusters and occasionally produces tangles that generate flares and CMEs.

Geomagnetic storms induced by space weather are usually harmless, but the stronger ones can be problematic. Satellites, power lines and other infrastructure can be vulnerable to the strongest flares from the sun, which is why NASA and other agencies keep an eye out for rare but super-strong solar events.

Last night's storms generated a stream of tweets from around the world as people spotted auroras in their locales.

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If you captured a stunning photo of the northern lights let us know! You can send in images and comments to Space.com by emailing spacephotos@space.com. Be sure to let us know your name, where you were observing from and what it was like to see the auroras.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she also tackles topics like diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, three space shuttle missions in Florida, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Her latest book, Leadership Moments from NASA, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.