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PHOTOS: Northern lights observed by many in the Comox Valley

Space Weather Canada says more northern lights could be observed over the weekend

Numerous people flocked Comox’s Point Holmes to observe the northern lights on the night of May 10.

Space Weather Canada says the lights are a product of massive solar flares striking all of Canada Friday afternoon – and it could continue through the weekend.

The sun has produced strong solar flares since Wednesday, resulting in at least seven outbursts of plasma. Each eruption can contain billions of tons of plasma and magnetic fields from the sun’s outer atmosphere.

The storm was initially just expected for Friday night and into the early hours of Saturday (May 11), but now Space Weather Canada says a major geomagnetic storm warning is in effect until 6 a.m. (Pacific Time) Sunday.

The natural phenomenon has been observed across Canada and as far south as California.

“That’s really the gift from space weather — the aurora,” said Rob Steenburgh, a scientist with the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center.

He and his colleagues said the best aurora views may come from phone cameras, which are better at capturing light than the naked eye.

The NOAA issued its first geomagnetic storm watch since 2005 and says the storm is a “potentially historic event.”

The most intense solar storm in recorded history, in 1859, prompted auroras all the way down to Central America.

“We are not anticipating that” but it could come close, said NOAA space weather forecaster Shawn Dahl.

This storm — ranked 4 on a scale of 1 to 5 — poses a risk for high-voltage transmission lines for power grids, not the electrical lines ordinarily found in people’s homes, Dahl told reporters. Satellites also could be affected, which in turn could disrupt navigation and communication services here on Earth.

- With files from Lauren McNeil and Black Press Media staff

RELATED: Raging solar storm could turn Northern Lights into a B.C.-wide show

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Olivier Laurin

About the Author: Olivier Laurin

I’m a bilingual multimedia journalist from Montréal who began my journalistic journey on Vancouver Island with The Comox Valley Record in 2023.
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