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Northern Lights visible in Arizona skies

Published: Wednesday, April 26, 2023 - 5:54pm
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Arizonans received a rare treat earlier this week when the Northern Lights became visible in the state.

Such views typically occur only in high-latitude areas like Canada and Scandinavia.

It all started with a solar flare and a coronal mass ejection that sent billions of tons of charged particles from the sun into space, where they interacted with Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere.

Bill Murtagh with the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center says Arizona auroras could happen again: The sun’s roughly 11-year cycle is building to a period of maximum activity, which will drive up the frequency and intensity of flares and ejections.

“We’re ramping up to the next maximum, expected in 2025, so we’re seeing more of this activity. Just a month ago, we had a G4 event, and we did have some sightings of the aurora in northern Arizona,” he said.

Geomagnetic storms are ranked from G1 to G5, with G5 being the highest. The one behind the recent aurora was a strong G4.

Historically, sightings of the aurora borealis have been reported from the southern U.S. and Northern Mexico, and even the Caribbean, but such occasions are extremely rare.