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Northern lights dazzle over Grand Forks Monday night

Such displays over the city are uncommon, but not unheard of, according to the Space Weather Prediction Center.

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Grand Forks meteorologist Jim Kaiser admired the northern lights outside the Grand Forks National Weather Service offices Monday night, Oct. 11. // Contributed photo

Grand Forks residents were treated to a rare northern lights display over the city late Monday night, Oct. 11.

According to Aurorasaurus, a citizen resource used frequently by space weather forecasters, two bands of green lights were clearly visible over the region from about 11 to 11:30 p.m. Monday night.

Such displays are uncommon, but not unheard of. Rob Steenburgh, the acting lead of the Space Weather Forecast Office at the Space Weather Prediction Center in Boulder, Col., estimates that geomagnetic storms of this magnitude occur roughly 360 days out of every 11-year solar cycle.

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The Northern Lights are visible near Goodridge, Minnesota. (Submitted photo by Dallas Bothum)

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This particular display was caused by a coronal mass ejection -- essentially a blob of plasma from the sun -- following a solar flare on Oct. 9.

As the beginning of a new solar cycle approaches and aural activity increases, there's a good chance the northern lights will return in the next three days, but cloud cover in the Grand Forks area might make sightings this week tricky, said Dan Robinson, lead forecaster with the National Weather Service in Grand Forks.

Ultimately, "There wasn't anything particularly unusual or noteworthy about this event," Steenburgh told the Herald via email. "Just a reminder of our close relationship with our nearest star."

Do you have photos of the northern lights that you'd like to share? Email us at news@gfherald.com.

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