A rare convergence of events led to a spectacular display of the Northern Lights over the Puget Sound region early Wednesday morning, and Greg Johnson's web camera was at the ready to document it.
We all know how difficult it is to get a clear night in early March around here, but we really beat the odds in lining up a clear night at the same time an intense geomagnetic storm had enough energy to bring the Northern Lights this far enough south to where it was visible in the Pacific Northwest.
And the icing on the cake: A high resolution web camera was recording all the while. Take a peek -- the lights come out around 12:30 a.m. on the clock and last until about 1:30 a.m.
And here it is slowed down to 2 frames per second. Again, show starts around 12:30ish.:
Johnson has had his camera at Skunkbayweather.com running from his home in Hansville for quite a while, but just recently began experimenting with overnight time lapse photography. He's been tweaking settings to get the best video and as luck would have it, he had it running Tuesday night.
The display wasn't just limited to the Pacific Northwest. Spaceweather.com has a nice gallery of other photos taken from around the world. Not to be outdone, Shawn Malone captured this video of the aurora from Marquette, Michigan:
Another, more impressive show Wednesday or Thursday night?
And the show might just be getting started. Another solar flare -- this one even larger -- is hurtling toward Earth, due to arrive midweek.
Its effects should start smacking Earth between 10 p.m. Wednesday and 2 a.m. Thursday PST, according to forecasters at the federal government's Space Weather Prediction Center, although the effects from the storm may not peak until Thursday evening. They say the storm, which started with a massive solar flare, is growing as it speeds outward from the sun.
"It's hitting us right in the nose," said Joe Kunches, a scientist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He called it the sun's version of "Super Tuesday."
They say it is the biggest in five years and growing, although with the sun just coming out of its quiet period, it's like saying 60 degree weather in March is the warmest since October.
The magnetic storm has the potential to trip electrical power grids. Its radio emissions can disrupt global positioning systems to make them less accurate. It also could damage satellites. Scientists said communication problems and radiation from the storm will probably force airplanes to avoid flying over the north and south poles.
To see the northern lights, the best time to look is between 11pm and 3 a.m. with peak times around midnight - 2 a.m. You'll have better luck if you can get away from city lights and find a place with a clear view of the northern horizon. This site has more tips on how to photograph the northern lights.
If you get any videos or photos, we'd love to see them! You can post them to our YouNews site or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Associated Press contributed to this report.