The northern lights, or Aurora Borealis, made a spectacular appearance Monday night, displaying dazzling hues of red, orange and green farther south than usual, with reported sightings popping up in places such as Kentucky, Indiana, Georgia, Oklahoma, and Mississippi, according to USA Today.
Jim Branda, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Memphis, Tenn., told CNN that the northern tier of the United States, which includes places such as Minneapolis and Boston, is usually the cutoff to where the northern lights can be seen in the south, but on Monday they stretched as far down as Memphis and Atlanta.
Branda said the atmospheric phenomenon is caused by an outburst of energy from the sun’s surface that is then carried off by solar wind and reacts with the earth’s atmosphere and magnetism.
The NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center said that the solar storm occurred at just the right time to create an optimal light show, as the skies were clear and it occurred at an hour at which the area was getting dark.
"While not a terribly significant geomagnetic storm, it did happen at a time when most of the United States was dark or getting dark," the weather prediction center said in a statement. "Couple that with the fact that large parts of the US had very clear skies, and you've got some beautiful sightings of the aurora across the northern tier of the US. Unfortunately for sky watchers, the geomagnetic storm appears to be in decline and no further significant space weather is expected at this time."
Tom Pruzenski of Hemlock, N.Y., told Space.com, "This outburst of red auroras happened around 9:30 p.m. My brother (amateur astronomer) Chris Pruzenski noticed faint auroras two hours earlier, around 7:30 p.m. We waited and watched, and our patience paid off with this 5-10 minute display of red and green auroras."