Washington, D.C./ Parks & Nature
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Published on May 11, 2024
Pittsburgh Sky Dazzles with Rare Northern Lights Display, Largest Geomagnetic Storm in 20 Years Disrupts CommunicationsSource: Unsplash/ Vincent Guth

Residents in the Pittsburgh area witnessed a dazzling natural spectacle last Friday as the northern lights, also known as the aurora borealis, painted the night sky with surreal hues. According to CBS News Pittsburgh, folks in Allegheny, Washington, Armstrong, Beaver, Greene, and Butler counties were treated to an array of green, purple, red, and pink tints just after 10 p.m., a sight rarely seen this far south.

The cause of the celestial display was the largest geomagnetic storm in over two decades, which brought the aurora typically confined to higher latitudes far enough south for Pennsylvanians to enjoy. The plethora of coronal mass ejections, or solar flares, shooting from the Sun's upper atmosphere sent charged particles toward the Earth, resulting in the stunning visual effect. This same disturbance was powerful enough to disrupt radio communications and satellite navigation, as per the CBS report.

Enthusiasts eager to capture this rare event took to social media to share their photographs, with Pittsburgh's Action News 4 receiving numerous shots from viewers across western Pennsylvania. An online gallery curated by WTAE showcases the vibrant colors streaking through the night sky, turning the cityscape into something out of a dream.

For those hoping to catch a last-minute glimpse of the northern lights, the outlook was promising. With the strongest visibility along the extreme northern edge of the country, locations in northern Ohio and northwest Pennsylvania were given a small chance to witness the display, reported WKBN. Additionally, clear skies provided an added benefit for the late-night show, ensuring that the cosmic light show was vividly visible to bare eyes of any stargazers who ventured outside.