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Midsouth reaction to the northern lights

A look back at how the Delta reacted to the aurora borealis, May 10.

Whitney Haigwood, Staff Writer

June 4, 2024

3 Min Read
Two grain bins in Arkansas with a purple sky lit up in the background from the northern lights.
Grain bins set against the northern lights on May 10, 2024, captured just north of Corning, Ark.Courtesy of Jay Malone

Did you catch a glimpse of the northern lights in the Midsouth? The merry dance of the aurora borealis made its way to Arkansas and Mississippi on May 10, with reports of the lights being visible as far south as Texas, Florida, and northern Mexico. 

The phenomenon was caused by an extreme geomagnetic storm, rated a G-5, the highest level. It not only lit up the evening sky, but it also lit up social media feeds – with just as many beautiful pictures as there were funny comments. 

Honestly, I had no clue about the geomagnetic storm warning until my brother called. With enthusiasm he said, “Whitney, go outside right now with your girls! You can see the northern lights! But you have to take a picture with your phone to really see them.” 

Of course, like any good sister, I followed his instructions. Sure enough, they were there. My girls and I gazed in wonder. To the naked eye, there was color in the sky. However, the photos we captured from our phones revealed a more vivid display. 

dfp-northern-lights-WHaigwood.jpg

It was the first time since October 2003 that the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had issued such an extreme solar storm warning. Somehow, I missed the memo back in 2003. That or it was because smartphones were not around to capture the best images. 

Regardless, the recent solar flare generated a beautiful display. And while it might not have been as stellar as a view from Fairbanks, Alaska, it certainly beat the over 4,000-mile trip from Arkansas. 

That evening, a friend sent me a photo of his farm shop in St. Francis County, set against the backdrop of the beautiful sky. He said, “I always wanted to go to Alaska and see them. Never thought I would see them from home. To me they are cooler than the total eclipse.” 

From there, I began collecting encounters of the northern lights in the Midsouth. Some pictures are featured in this Farm Progress slideshow, Northern lights across rural America. Perhaps my favorite coverage, though, was a time lapse video posted to X by Mary Hightower, director of communications at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture. 

Then there were those who missed the light show altogether. Not to be left out, they posted funny memes and comments. One that made me giggle was a black photo of absolutely nothing, captioned, “If you can’t see it with your own eyes, you didn’t see it!” 

Others who missed the display posted photos of the skyline, marked up with pink and purple scribbles from the edit feature of their phone. 

Maybe we will get the opportunity to see the northern lights again this far south. I guess until then, I’ll be like the meme of the skeleton sitting on a park bench, captioned “Me waiting to see the northern lights.” 

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