Auroras dazzle in Latin America as solar storm causes rare displays

May 12, 2024 - 1:56 PM
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A view shows the lights of an Aurora Borealis caused by a geomagnetic storm near the border cities of Mexicali, Mexico and Calexico, U.S. as seen from Tecate, Mexico May 10, 2024. (Reuters/Victor Medina)

 The biggest geomagnetic storm in two decades, sparked by solar flares, caused dazzling lights displays in parts of Latin America overnight on Friday, including a rare appearance in Mexico.

In Mexicali, a desert city on Mexico’s northern border thousands of miles from the Arctic regions where the northern lights are common, gradients of pink and purple illuminated the night sky.

The civil protection agency in Mexicali’s state of Baja California said more auroras could be visible on Saturday evening.

In Chile, where the lights are known as aurora australis, or southern lights, local media and social media users shared photos of the sky in the city of Punta Arenas painted with reds and magentas.

Local media in Argentina reported similar hues illuminating the sky in the Patagonian city of Ushuaia.

Geomagnetic storms are caused when explosions of plasma and magnetic fields from the sun’s corona are directed at Earth, where they can trigger such aurora displays, according to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The geomagnetic storm is likely to continue through the weekend, the agency said.

—Reporting by Brendan O’Boyle in Mexico City;Editing by Matthew Lewis