Sunspots show off

Just before midnight on Friday, Louisa Schibli took this picture of John Brawley, owner of Sweet Sound Aquaculture shrimp farm at Nordic Farms, contemplating the night sky making a spectacle of itself.

The past year has been crazy with storms. After having floods, early freezes and every kind of storm you can imagine, we experienced a geomagnetic storm this past weekend.

From Friday-Sunday, May 10-12, people looking north from a vantage point with a minimum of light pollution before and after midnight were treated to the aurora borealis.

People in all 50 states were able to see the lightshow.

In Charlotte, the town beach proved to be a good place to watch the celestial light show.

According to National Public Radio, the aurora borealis has been caused by the largest geomagnetic storm in years hitting the Earth’s atmosphere.

A sunspot is sending charged particles toward the Earth. When they hit the atmosphere, they are heated and the show begins. Social media is also heated by the sunspot castoffs.

The more active the geomagnetic field, the brighter the aurora and the farther it travels from the poles.

“The level of geomagnetic activity is indicated by the planetary K index or Kp. The Kp index ranges from 0 to 9,” the National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration’s space weather prediction center website says.

Cecelia Wu caught this photo when the aurora borealis was the brightest it has been in more than 20 years.

As the Kp range goes up the aurora becomes brighter and moves further from the poles. When the Kp range is 6 to 7, the aurora may move far enough from the poles and be bright enough to be seen from the northern edge of the United States.

Wu said the Kp range on Friday was 9. The highest it has been in at least 20 years.