Conditions are favorable for auroa borealis: Will northern lights be visible in SC this week? (2024)

Residents of Upstate South Carolina were treated to a stunning surprise when an aurora borealis was visible in the area during the weekend of May 10-11. Now, reports show that the U.S. may see more northern lights in early June; But will they be visible in the Upstate?

The Asheville Citizen Times originally reportedthat the May 10-11 auroras were going to be visible largely in northern states, already a significantly farther reach than usual. But when the geomagnetic storm responsible for the aurora was upgraded to a G5 storm, the northern lights unexpectedly became visible in S.C.

Later this week, the sunspot where May's amazing auroras originated will be facing Earth again. With the approach of the solar maximum producing increasing numbers of coronal mass ejections, science says it's not out of the question for aurora borealis to be visible in S.C.

Conditions are favorable for auroa borealis: Will northern lights be visible in SC this week? (1)

Here's what to know about the potential return of northern lights to S.C. skies.

More:Aurora borealis was spectacular. Will northern lights be visible again soon in Greenville, SC?

May 10 northern lights in South Carolina

Plenty of Upstate photographers snapped photos of the May auroras. So, too, did Jen Blake Fraser, who provided images to the Asheville Citizen Times. She also described her experience of viewing the lights.

"It was mostly a faint glow and I could tell that it was red, pink or green," Fraser said. "Occasionally more brilliant streaks would appear. Some of those streaks moved and changed quickly, as if they were blowing in the wind."

Conditions are favorable for auroa borealis: Will northern lights be visible in SC this week? (2)

When will the next northern lights be visible?

The sunspot will face Earth from June 4-6, but so far, no strong storms are predicted.

Additionally, reporting from USA TODAY explored the possibility of northern lights over the June 7-9 weekend, though the article reiterated the difficulty of predicting the phenomenon.

NOAA's Space Prediction Centerprovides ashort-term forecast for the location and intensity of the northern lights, with 30 and 90-minute predictions. Keep an eye on these predictions for the next few evenings if you're hoping for an aurora-viewing opportunity.

More:Planet parade: What to know about June's 6-planet alignment

Will South Carolina see the northern lights again this week?

Conditions are favorable for auroa borealis: Will northern lights be visible in SC this week? (3)

Currently, NOAA predictions call for potential aurora visibility as far as northern tier and far north upper Midwest states. Still, solar weather can be unpredictable as in the case of the May 10-11 solar storms.

What causes aurora borealis?

While they may look magical, the formation of auroras is hard science. When particles flowing from the sun are caught in Earth's magnetic field, their interaction with molecules of atmospheric gases cause the famous eerie green and rusty red displays.

Aurora sightings are becoming more common in wider areas due to increased coronal mass ejections associated with the solar maximum, the point at which the sun undergoes the highest rate of activity in its cycle of roughly 11 years.

Though the maximum is predicted to occur between late 2024 and early 2026, scientists cannot determine the occurrence of a solar maximum until at least seven months after it occurs, and the occurrences and intensities of solar flares are difficult to predict. The last solar maximum occurred in 2014.

More:When is the June full moon? Why is it called the Strawberry Moon? Why you won't want to miss it.

Why are the northern lights different colors?

Conditions are favorable for auroa borealis: Will northern lights be visible in SC this week? (4)

According to reporting from USA TODAY, the bright colors of the northern lights are determined by the chemical composition of Earth's atmosphere and the altitude where the solar particles collide with gases.

The same article states that auroras most often appear green, but can also appear red, pink, blue or purple. provided explanations for a few of the colors seen in auroras with help from the Canadian Space Agency:

  • Green auroras are typically produced when charged particles collide with high concentrations of oxygen molecules in Earth's atmosphere at altitudes of around 60 to 190 miles.
  • Red auroras, less common and usually associated with intense solar activity, occur when solar particles react with oxygen at higher altitudes, generally around 180 to 250 miles.
  • Blue and purple auroras, even less common than red, also tend to appear during periods of high solar activity. These colors are produced when solar particles collide with nitrogen in Earth's atmosphere at an altitude of 60 miles or less.
  • Yellow and pink auroras result from a mixture of red auroras with green or blue auroras. They are rare and typically associated with high solar activity.

Cheryl McCloud, USA Today Network, contributed to this post.

Iris Seaton is the trending news reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA TODAY Network. Reach her at

Conditions are favorable for auroa borealis: Will northern lights be visible in SC this week? (2024)


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