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Northern Lights dazzle over Bay Area, California skies amid solar storm

Autor: ABC7 San Francisco

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) — A solar storm offered up some stunning nighttime images across the Bay Area and California this weekend.

One of the strongest solar storms to hit Earth in two decades is behind the light show.

By Sunday, weather experts said the visibility would only dip as low as Lake Tahoe, but at the earlier peak on Friday, it was visible as far south as Florida and across the Northern Hemisphere.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Northern Lights may be visible in parts of California overnight due to strong solar storm

How Californians saw the Northern Lights

An image showing the Northern Lights was taken along the side of a vineyard in Yountville Friday by Margie Verdan.

“I was just so jazzed. I was just so amazed by how beautiful the showcase of colors were,” said Verdan.

The Northern Lights dazzle over Bay Area skies on Saturday, May 11, 2024.

The Northern Lights dazzle over Bay Area skies on Saturday, May 11, 2024.

Margie Verdan

Margie couldn’t see the Northern Lights with her eyes, but she put her iPhone in night mode, hit the shutter, and took the picture. She then saw incredible images.

“So even when you’re looking at the phone you don’t know? So it’s almost like this surprise that you get,” said ABC7 News Reporter J.R. Stone to Verdan.

“Yes it’s like it’s there, but you can’t see it. It was just in my backyard, other people had to fly to Ireland and Norway or Alaska just to see those beautiful colors and I saw it,” said Verdan.

And while many could only see the Northern Lights in their pictures, some like Kitty Nikolai who were far from city lights in Paradise, California, could see them.

VIDEO: Incredible timelapse captures Northern Lights over NorCal

Timelapse video from photographer Brian Fulda captures the Northern Lights as they dazzled stargazers over Blue Canyon, California.

“But starting around 10:30 we could literally see it with the naked eye, so you could see the curtains kind of shimmering but the photos were absolutely fantastic. We got the purple, and the pinks, and the greens,” said Nikolai.

“I thought I saw a pink hue in the sky. You know sometimes how you question yourself and think it’s because you want to see it. I closed my eyes and opened them again and said I see pink. You could see a hue, put it that way. It wasn’t vivid like the color in the picture that I sent to you the almost fuchsia color it was more when you looked at the sky you know,” said Sue Faina who took many pictures of the Northern Lights in Clayton, California.

The Northern Lights dazzle above the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge on Saturday, May 11, 2024.

The Northern Lights dazzle above the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge on Saturday, May 11, 2024.

Hugo Lageneste/@hugolgst

“We reached there around 1:15 am and at least for the first half an hour we could very clearly see them with our eyes. It just takes a few seconds for your eyes to adjust to the darkness,” said Stanford scholar Sushant Mahajan.

Mahajan took several images from an area near the Lick Observatory in Mount Hamilton early Saturday morning.

“In the afternoon it was upgraded to a G5 and we got a G5 which is why like it was visible in all 50 states, even Hawaii,” said Mahajan.

G5 was the highest-level solar storm of the weekend. Saturday night was a G3 and Sunday night was a G3 or possibly G4 depending on what expert you talked with. All of these images though were taken Friday night and early Saturday morning.

“You had to have it on night mode. My husband Scott, he has the iPhone X. He doesn’t have night mode so he couldn’t see it at all visually or on his phone,” said Faina.

“So when the nubies would come in and say, ‘Oh I can’t see anything.’ Somebody would always run over to them and help them with their phones. I was helping several people,” said Nikolai.

“Excitement, gratitude, I was awe being able to see it,” said Verdan.

Families trek to Chabot Observatory to see Northern Lights

Families from all over the Bay Area drove to Chabot Observatory Friday night.

The Northern Lights are captured from Point Reyes, Calif. on Saturday, May 11, 2024.

The Northern Lights are captured from Point Reyes, Calif. on Saturday, May 11, 2024.

Belmont resident Amy Kung brought her family in hopes of seeing the Northern Lights.

“There’s a lot of hype, we’re so excited I always wanted to take the kids to see it and we have the opportunity close in our backyard then why not?” Kung said.

Every Friday and Saturday, Chabot astronomers provided free telescope viewing.

The Northern Lights dazzle above Bay Area skies on Saturday, May 11, 2024.

The Northern Lights dazzle above Bay Area skies on Saturday, May 11, 2024.

Lorrin Squatrittow

Chabot has three, massive and historic telescopes where people can peek into the wonder of the universe.

Santa Clara University Associate Professor of Physics Philip Kesten said you don’t need a telescope to see these rare lights.

“For the eclipse, you had to have certain special things available to you, for the Northern Lights if they’re in the sky you can see them form anywhere,” Kresten said.

Kesten said the Northern Lights, which are officially called the aurora borealis, are spectacular when you can see them, and the reason this event is so exciting is because it doesn’t happen very often.

“There are a lot of things that happen in your life where you miss it and you go oh, I’ll see it tomorrow – I’ll do it tomorrow – this is not one of those things,” Kresten said.

San Francisco resident Elisa Yao first saw the shimmering display on a trip to Abisko, Sweden when it was negative 20 degrees outside.

“It was totally worth it and I almost cried and it looked like green snakes in the sky,” Yao said.

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