MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - The fiery glow of the Northern Lights could be seen as far south as Atlanta on Monday night thanks to a combination of a large cloud of gas and magnetic field ejected from the sun, and lucky timing, weather experts said.
The cloud ejected from the sun Saturday arrived on Monday more intensely and quickly than people were expecting, said Doug Biesecker, a physicist and researcher for the Space Weather Prediction Center of the National Weather Service.
"We knew there would be something, but we were calling for very low level system impacts and for aurora to only be visible to those who are used to seeing aurora," Biesecker said. "Boy was I wrong."
A sighting of the aurora borealis as far south as Atlanta might happen twice a year, while farther north in Wyoming or Minnesota conditions probably have been ripe for a half dozen appearances already this year, he said.
The conditions for sightings of the Northern Lights in southern states appear to be in decline Tuesday.
"It is just one of those things, it's location, location, location," he said. "They can last longer, but this one, the event has passed and we are back down to normal background levels."
With an 11-year solar cycle nearing a peak in 2013, "there will be more opportunities in the coming years," he said.
(Reporting by David Bailey and Greg McCune)