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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Northern Lights seen in PR over the weekend

Most of the recent sightings of the Northern Lights from Puerto Rico occurred between 11 p.m. and 11:45 p.m. on Friday. Previous sightings of the phenomena from the island reportedly date back to 1921 and 1859.

By The Star Staff

Eddie Irizarry, a science communicator with the Caribbean Astronomical Society (SAC by its Spanish initials), said the geomagnetic storm that hit Friday night was so intense that the auroras were visible in several towns in Puerto Rico, albeit in a milder form.

“We have reports and there are images from Ciales, Añasco, Cabo Rojo and Hormigueros, among other towns, and all the sightings coincide in that they were looking in the direction of the northern horizon, which together with our evaluations of the event allow us to verify that they were indeed seen slightly from our latitude,” Irizarry said in a written statement.

He said most of the sightings from the island occurred between 11 p.m. and 11:45 p.m. on Friday. He noted that as documented, previous sightings of the Northern Lights occurred in Puerto Rico in 1859 and 1921.

“On this occasion, they were not only seen slightly in Puerto Rico in the areas with less light pollution, but also in Cuba and Jamaica, so it was a major event,” said Nelson Ortega, vice president of the SAC.

The current event is due to an increase in activity on the sun, which is very close to its maximum solar activity as part of a cycle in which it shows more activity every 11 years. More sunspots and eruptions of material that cause so-called solar storms are observed at such times.

The Northern Lights occur when solar activity is so intense that the sun ejects material, in what are known as coronal mass ejections, a kind of cloud with radiation that, when it reaches the Earth’s magnetic field, manages to penetrate through the areas near the poles. By interacting with the Earth’s atmosphere, it causes the unusual sighting of colors in the sky, mainly green, pink and violet.

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