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PHOTOS: Mother Nature puts on a late-night light show

Northern lights illuminate the night sky over west central Minnesota on Thursday, March 23, 2023.

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The nighttime sky along Green Lake near Spicer on Thursday, March 23, 2023, is illuminated just before midnight with vivid hues of the aurora borealis amid a geomagnetic storm rated "severe" by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

SPICER β€” As most were tucking into bed for the night on Thursday, something special was taking place high in the evening sky.

What began as a light flicker of lights during the blue hour eventually grew into a sky that was pulsating with vibrant light as the aurora borealis, or northern lights, began to take control over the nighttime sky in Kandiyohi County and west central Minnesota.

The aurora borealis is caused by activity on the surface of the sun, 93 million miles away, according to earthsky.org. Massive storms on the sun send charged solar particles into space. When Earth is in the path of these particle streams, the planet’s magnetic field and atmosphere react, causing the aurora borealis to dance across the sky.

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The aurora borealis, or northern lights, dance above Glacial Ridge Trail along Green Lake near Spicer on Thursday, March 23, 2023, as an aurora storm takes place just before midnight.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

The aurora can appear in a wide variety of ways, from arcs to spirals, and in a wide range of colors.

The lights are quite common in the far northern reaches of the northern hemisphere, including Canada, Greenland, Russia, Alaska and Iceland, to name a few. When stronger storms arise, northern states such as Montana, Oregon, Washington, North Dakota and Minnesota can catch a glimpse of the natural wonder.

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In terms of how strong a storm has to be for areas farther south to witness aurora activity, storms are rated on a Kp, or Planetary K Index that runs from 0 to 9. Thursday evening and Friday morning's display featured a Kp between 5 and 7.67. Storms need to be around 5Kp to be seen in Kandiyohi County, according to softservenews.com.

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The recently thawed waters of Middle Fork Crow River along Green Lake near Spicer on Thursday, March 23, 2023, reflect the northern lights as an aurora storm takes place just before midnight.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

If you want to test your luck in spotting the northern lights, find a clear spot with an open view to the north, preferably with as little light pollution as possible. Space Weather Live predicts a max Kp of 6 on Friday and a max Kp of 5 on both Saturday and Sunday, according to spaceweatherlive.com.

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Vibrant lights from the aurora borealis illuminate the evening sky over Green Lake near Spicer on Thursday, March 23, 2023, as an aurora storm takes place just before midnight.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune
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Green hues from the aurora borealis illuminate the sky along Green Lake near Spicer on Thursday, March 23, 2023, as an aurora storm takes place early in the evening.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune
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Northern lights illuminate the sky over North Shore Drive just before midnight near Spicer on Thursday, March 23, 2023, as an aurora storm takes place.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune
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The recently thawed waters of Middle Fork Crow River reflect the northern lights just before midnight along Green Lake near Spicer on Thursday, March 23, 2023, as an aurora storm takes place.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune
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Macy Moore is an award-winning photojournalist at the West Central Tribune in Willmar, Minnesota.
She can be reached via email: mmoore@wctrib.com or phone: 320.214.4338.
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