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Northern lights
Photographer Tim Durkan’s image from West Seattle looking back at the city, with the Space Needle on the right, and the northern lights. (Tim Durkan Photo)

The beautiful sunshine in Seattle on Saturday gave way to an equally awesome display in the night sky as the northern lights made a rare appearance over the city and parts of Washington state.

Photographer Tim Durkan, who captured a similar display last May, was at it again in the wee hours of Sunday morning.

“Just home from an amazing ‘Saturday Night Special’ Aurora Borealis over the Emerald City – WOW…!” Durkan wrote on Facebook. “I got to the party a little late last night (around 2am) but heard it was bright all over the state!! Did you catch a glimpse or even a photo? Lets see it in the comments!”

The aurora was the result of an outburst of charged particles from the sun, known as a coronal mass ejection or CME, which swept over Earth’s magnetic field. SpaceWeather.com said the CME seemed to have only a weak effect at first, but then the storm swept through a crack in the field and sparked surprisingly vivid displays as far south as Arizona.

Other astro types had their eyes — and camera lenses — on the skies, too. Astronomer/educator Alice Enevoldsen inspired a spur-of-the-moment observing campaign in West Seattle that circulated between Don Armeni Boat Ramp and Myrtle Reservoir Park.

City lights tend to interfere with the show and long-exposure images provide the most dramatic viewing when aurora occurs.

Skunk Bay Weather was also on high alert. Greg Johnson is the man behind the cameras at the northern tip of the Kitsap Peninsula, documenting dramatic weather and night skies. A time-lapse video on Twitter showed the colors come into focus.

The view further north, in Whistler, B.C., also showed the skies over the Canadian ski resort awash in pink and green.

The storms are subsiding now, according to spaceweather.com. “Earth is exiting the CME’s wake, and our planet’s magnetic field is quieting. Nevertheless, there is a lingering chance of G1-class storms and high-latitude auroras after nightfall on May 28,” the site reported on Sunday.

Check out this link for more on what causes the auroras.

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