On the evening of March 23, 2023, a rare and magical event graced the skies of North Carolina – the aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights. While this phenomenon is typically associated with more northern latitudes, a lucky few in North Carolina were able to witness this incredible display of natural beauty.
Evan Fisher, a meteorology student at UNC Asheville, was one of the fortunate few who was able to photograph the aurora borealis last night. He described the rare phenomenon as “dancing Aurora Borealis pillars over Asheville at 11:15 p.m.” and said, “I will never forget this.”
The aurora borealis is a natural light display that occurs when charged particles from the sun collide with atoms in the Earth’s atmosphere. These collisions create a beautiful and colorful display of light in the night sky, often in shades of green, pink, purple, and blue.
James Reynolds, a photographer who runs the Asheville Pictures Facebook page, was also able to witness and photograph the aurora borealis. He said, “This was right around midnight. I saw photographers in Virginia on Twitter talking about it late last night, so we loaded up the car and headed out. Earth Sky does a good job of putting out news alerts. But I don’t think anyone predicted it would be visible in NC.”
My photos of the aurora last night and this morning edited together to create a timelapse. pic.twitter.com/yDRsJCIgij— Asheville Pictures (@AshevillePictu1) March 24, 2023
While the long exposure images taken with his camera make the phenomena more apparent than it is to the naked eye, Reynolds said it was visible without the use of a long exposure photo, but still pretty subtle. “There was some purple glow to the naked eye!”
While the aurora borealis is typically associated with more northern latitudes, it is not unheard of for it to appear in more southern regions under the right conditions. In fact, the last time the aurora borealis was visible in North Carolina was in 2015.
For those lucky enough to witness the aurora borealis, it is truly a rare experience. Here’s hoping we all get to see it again someday soon.