A powerful solar storm struck Earth early on Saturday, creating magnificent Northern Lights displays across the Northern Hemisphere. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) had to issue an uncommon, severe geomagnetic storm warning because the solar storm arrived sooner than anticipated. This storm made the Northern Lights visible in many parts of Britain, including areas as far south as London and southern England. Reports and photographs of the breathtaking phenomenon also came in from other European cities. The NOAA advised operators of power plants and spacecraft, as well as the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to take precautions, although the general public did not need to take any special actions. The captivating displays of the Northern Lights might be seen as far south as Alabama and Northern California in the U.S., though they may not be as vivid.

This solar storm is reminiscent of the most intense recorded solar storm in 1859, which caused auroras visible as far south as Central America and possibly Hawaii. Such storms pose risks to high-voltage transmission lines and satellites, potentially disrupting navigation and communication services. A similarly severe storm in 2003 caused power outages in Sweden and damaged transformers in South Africa. The recent activity began with solar flares observed since May 15, leading to multiple coronal mass ejections—massive bursts of plasma and magnetic fields from the sun’s outer atmosphere. The sunspot responsible for these flares is much larger than Earth and is part of the heightened solar activity as the sun approaches the peak of its 11-year cycle. These phenomena underline the powerful and unpredictable nature of space weather, which continues to captivate and challenge scientists and observers alike.