Weather tracker: Geomagnetic storms trigger northern lights

Strong solar flares produce breathtaking displays across Europe and the US, with southern lights illuminating skies in New Zealand

Night skies were lit up around the world by a spectacular display of the northern lights on Friday, with sightings seen widely across Europe, the US and even New Zealand (as the southern lights). The lights occur when charged particles emitted from the sun reach the Earth’s atmosphere and collide with gases around the magnetic poles triggering breathtaking night-time auroras.

In the US, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued a “severe” G4 geomagnetic storm event, but by Friday evening it announced conditions had reached “extreme” G5 levels, the highest level on the space weather scale, for the first time since October 2003.

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