Anchorage residents observed an unusually strong aurora borealis from Point Woronzof on Sunday. (Matt Faubion/Alaska Public Media)
A massive aurora borealis visible across the state overnight Sunday is a sign of strong solar activity set to bring more sightings this week, scientists say.
Alaskans flocked to social media Sunday night to share their photos and videos of the aurora, many showing vibrant ribbons of color streaking across the sky.
Don Hampton, an associate professor with the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute, said his cameras recorded aurora activity from 7 p.m. Sunday through 6 a.m. Monday.
“There was aurora in them all night long,” he said.
Hampton said he was struck by the sheer size of the aurora — visible overhead across much of Alaska ranging as far south as Sitka and Ketchikan.
He said the aurora, which is driven by solar winds interacting with Earth’s ionosphere, is on a rising trend toward a solar maximum — the peak of an 11-year cycle in auroral activity,
expected to arrive in 2025. Sunday’s display was also fueled by an explosion of charged plasma from the sun, called “a coronal mass ejection.”
“And in this case,” he said, “that happened to be aimed right at us. And it was big enough and strong enough that it created this really sort of special auroral display.”
The intensity of the display resulted in latent red hues visible in the sky, mixing with greens.
The next mass ejection from the sun is expected Monday.
“We’re probably going to see the second one hit sometime today or tonight, and so we’re likely to see more good aurora,” he said.
The institute’s auroral forecast calls for “highly active auroral displays” Monday over nearly all of Alaska, including Southcentral.
Here are some of our favorite photos of Sunday’s aurora borealis, gathered from across the state:
Trees in Anchor Point on the Kenai Peninsula provide a backdrop for the borealis. (Hope McKenney/KBBI)
The vibrant hues of the aurora are visible in this Glen Alps image of Flattop in Anchorage. (Courtesy Brian Brettschneider)
A radiant wave of green from the aurora ripples above Turnagain Pass. (Courtesy William Burke)
A green blossom appears above Eagle River during the aurora. (Courtesy Renee Romsland) The aurora appears over the Airport Heights area of Anchorage. (Tegan Hanlon/Alaska Public Media)
Tendrils of the aurora reach above Reflections Lake in Palmer. (Courtesy Rami Pagel)
Bethel’s St. Sophia Church is backlit by the borealis. (Courtesy Nicholai Joekay)
Strong red hues tinge the borealis above the Cripple Creek area of Fairbanks. (Courtesy Che Rosa)
A peak near the Independence Mine in Hatcher Pass. (Courtesy Teddi Worrock)
Tree branches and hues of the aurora mingle in this Wasilla image. (Courtesy Sheri Duenas)
A wild array of colors floods this vertical shot of the aurora above Eagle River. (Courtesy Matt Allen)
A ribbon of the aurora sweeps across the skies above Juneau. (Courtesy Laura Sanbei)
The scope of the aurora reveals itself in this shot of Seward’s skyline. (Courtesy Karen Corrigan)
Both the aurora and the moon are visible in this photo taken from Anchorage’s Valley of the Moon area. (Courtesy Julia Bedell)
The aurora rises above a Kenai forest. (Courtesy Heidi Maria)
A ribbon of auroral color paints the skies above McKinley Village, near Denali National Park. (Courtesy Erica Watson)
The skies over Buckland are brightened by the aurora. (Courtesy Emma Thielen)
A holiday scene near Fairbanks’ Chena Hot Springs Road receives additional illumination from the aurora. (Courtesy Edward Alexander)
Bands of color from the aurora sweep across the skies over Seward. (Courtesy Dusti Cummins)
The stars are visible through a veil of aurora from Big Lake. (Courtesy Deantha Skibinski)
The aurora leads to a light show over Deering. (Courtesy Andrea Iyatunguk)
Beach Lake near Birchwood becomes a good vantage point for the aurora’s display above Cook Inlet. (Courtesy Ana Keyser)
Rippling waves of color resonate through this high-angle shot of the aurora from Hatcher Pass. (Courtesy Ally Hrncir)
Thank you to all of the readers and listeners who shared their photos with us!