Sun Storm Supercharges Northern Lights

Brilliant streaks of green, purple and pink lit up skies across Canada and many northern U.S. states on Monday night.

Brilliant streaks of green, purple and pink lit up skies across Canada and many northern U.S. states on Monday night, in brilliant auroral displays following a massive solar storm.

The auroras were seen as far south as Philadelphia and northern New Jersey last night (June 22), and gave astronauts aboard the International Space Station a stunning celestial light show. The solar storm that caused the auroras was declared a level G4 (severe), with a maximum possible ranking of G5 (extreme).

Auroras, also known as the northern and southern lights, are caused by bursts of powerful particles ejected from the sun that collide with Earth's atmosphere. The solar storm behind last night's spectacular light display continues to rage, and officials say auroras should be visible again tonight (June 23) for viewers in Canada and parts of the U.S. [Amazing Auroras: Breathtaking Northern Lights Photos of 2015]

Solar Storm Leads to Stunning Aurora Displays: Photos

Photographer Jeff Berkes snapped photos of the rippling northern lights over a field in southern Philadelphia. In an email to, Berkes said these were the most intense northern lights he has ever seen in this location.

Meteorologist Eric Holthaus wrote in an article for Slate that the coronal mass ejection had picked up two smaller, slower ejections from last week, building in power as the particles raced toward Earth. Once there, they whipped up a geomagnetic storm as the Earth's magnetic field adjusted to the new addition - and the results could be seen all across the northern United States and Canada.

The solar storm erupted from the sun during the day on Sunday (June 21). As the sun belched out a fiery solar flare, it also released a huge coronal mass ejection - a stream of charged particles. The size and strength of this particular particle ejection were dubbed "impressive" by scientists working on NASA's Advanced Composition Explorer mission as the storm shot by the ACE spacecraft on the way to Earth Sunday afternoon.

A solar storm lit up the night sky above Mammoth Hot Springs last night.

The storm reached severe levels as of 1:13 a.m. EDT (0513 GMT) today, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center, and fast solar wind conditions and strong magnetic fields will likely continue - meaning auroras will likely be visible again tonight for lucky skywatchers.

Photos: What is the Aurora Borealis?

A real-time photo gallery of the lights is building at While auroras pose no threat to people on Earth, powerful ejections of particles from the sun can damage satellites orbiting Earth and power grids on the ground.

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Aurora Guide: How the Northern Lights Work (Infographic)

Space Station's Aurora Fly-Through | Video The Sun's Wrath: Worst Solar Storms in History Copyright 2015, a Purch company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photographer Jeff Berkes snapped this photo from southern Pennsylvania, just 27 miles west of Philadelphia as the moon was setting.

The aurora borealis, AKA Northern Lights, are a phenomenon that occurs when bursts of radiation from solar weather eruptions disturb the magnetosphere, a sort of electromagnetic cocoon around the Earth that’s created by our planet’s magnetic field. Normally, the Northern lights are only visible in places such as Alaska, but this year, the solar eruption was strong enough to illuminate the skies over a much wider area, and to make the show more dramatic. The photo above shows the scenery at the Zhongshan Station, a Chinese scientific research base in Antarctica.

PHOTOS: What is the Aurora Borealis?

The collision accelerates particles that are trapped in the space around Earth and sends them crashing down into our atmosphere, where they excite oxygen and nitrogen molecules and release photons, leading to spectacular light shows in the sky. Above, another shot from Zhongshan Station.

Epic Aurora Photos From the Space Station

The Northern Lights illuminate the Isle of Lewis’ iconic Callandish Stones, an arrangement of stones that may date back as far as 2900 B.C., and may have been an ancient lunar observatory or site of religious rites.

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Here’s a shot of the Northern Lights, as seen from Narva-Joesuu, a town of just 2,600 residents on the Baltic seacoast of northeastern Estonia. Between September and March, the country is a traditional tourist destination for those who hope to see the Northern Lights.

Dazzling Aurora Appears Over Antarctica: Big Pic

Here's another view from Narva-Joesuu in northeastern Estonia.

BLOG: Lightning, Stars, And Aurorae Shine In Time-Lapse

No, the Earth isn’t dyed green for St. Patrick’s Day, but it might as well have been. Here’s an image grabbed from video shot by an astronaut on the International Space Station.

VIDEO: Auroras Are So Pretty! Lets Shoot Them!

"The most amazing green I've seen, courtesy of a solar flare," tweeted Terry W. Virts, NASA astronaut aboard the



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Polar lights shine bright in the nightly sky above Germany near Lietzen, Germany.

PHOTOS: Spectacular Displays of Dancing Aurora