The Northern Lights, or an aurora borealis, is a solar phenomenon that occurs when solar winds and charged protons in Earth’s atmosphere collide, causing a natural light show.

What Are The Northern Lights?

A spectacular multi-colored display emerged in the night skies above the Northeast, Great Lakes and Northern Plains regions on Thursday into Friday, according to weather forecasters. The aurora borealis was only be visible for roughly five to 10 minutes. South of Colorado and Illinois the phenomenon couldn't be seen, but it was viewable in cities Boston, Chicago and Seattle.

“It’s a very rare occurrence,” Joe Kunches of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center told the Los Angeles Times. “We really don’t have the ability to say when it comes to forecasting the aurora,” Kunches said.

“Basically, on late Tuesday, there was a strong eruption at the sun that was caused by strong magnetic fields,” Kunches added, explaining what caused the northern lights. “Part of that eruption was at a cloud, which got blown off. There is a directional component to it. It really matters where you are.”

Weather permitting, the best time to view the Northern Lights would have been on Thursday night. Colors in the aurora typically include red, yellow, green and blue.

– Chelsea Regan

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