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Likely More Aurora Borealis Tonight: Finding It In Oregon, Washington, Coastlines (Photo Gallery)

Published 5/11/24 at 6:17 p.m.
By Andre' Hagestedt, Oregon Coast Beach Connection

(Oregon Coast) – As far as a celestial show goes, it was a show-stopper. And it's going to put on an encore. (Photo Bandon, courtesy Manuela Durson - Manuela Durson Fine Arts )

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Look for more of the northern lights tonight – Saturday – with local experts saying there's a really good chance the aurora borealis is popping up again as more waves of coronal mass ejections (CME) hit the Earth. The Oregon and Washington coast will have some problems with that tonight, however, as clouds are set to wander in, but inland areas around Seattle, Tacoma, Vancouver, Portland, McMinnville, Salem and Eugene should remain clear.

However, those along the coastlines - in places like Westport, Bandon, Long Beach, Port Orford, Lincoln City, Seaside or Manzanita – can head just a bit inland and get away from the clouds.

According to local meteorologists and OMSI astronomy expert Jim Todd, between 11 p.m. and 2 a.m. should be the best viewing, with some saying the peak will be about midnight.

It's the strongest geomagnetic storm in 20 years, said OMSI's Todd, and it caused auroral lights to hit as far south as California and Alabama, creating vibrant pinks, purples, red and greens that you'd normally see only in the Arctic. Those photos sent to Oregon Coast Beach Connection's social media by readers may have been amateur shots but there wasn't a bad one in the bunch. See the photo posts

The KP index was at extreme – a level 9 – which measures how much electromagnetic energy is pouring onto Earth from the CMEs.

Todd, who's been in Portland for decades, had never seen anything like it.

Photo Seaside Aquarium's Tiffany Boothe - Seaside

“This was the best auroral viewing I have ever seen in my career from the Portland metro area,” he said. “We have been overdue for a storm for a very long time.”

It's an extreme event, Todd said – a category 5 at one point.

“It is subsiding now (currently category G3), but it is not over,” Todd said early Saturday. “More CMEs are expected to hit Earth's magnetic field during the next 24-48 hours, and they could push the storm back to extreme levels.”

This comes from a gigantic sunspot that is 15 times the size of Earth called Region 3664, which is still dumping stuff out into space, but it's pointing away from Earth now.

While it all looks promising, it's still not for certain.

“A G4 storm isn’t a guarantee you’ll be able to see the Northern Lights from our region, but it definitely bears watching and looking north late tonight between 11 PM to 2 AM,” Todd told Oregon Coast Beach Connection. “The weather should be clear and the moon is a very thin crescent, which is perfect for viewing conditions.”

Why those hours?

“11 pm to 2 am figures due to the earth shadow being directly overhead,” Todd told Oregon Coast Beach Connection.


Photos around the Oregon coast and Washington coast were stunning: even the shaky ones.

Ashleigh Daly caught it at 11:30 p.m. on Portland's Beaverton / Hillsdale Highway, even in the midst of bright city lights.

Some of the most stunning came Manuela Durson in Bandon on the south coast, including the Coquille River Lighthouse (at top).

More incredible shots came from Tiffany Boothe of Seaside Aquarium, with the full variety of shades from pinks and purples down to the greens. These were vibrant and intense.

In Portland's Gabriel Park, Oregon Coast Beach Connection had some photo misfires – or we simply missed out on the best timing (which was apparently 10 p.m. to midnight). There were some equipment issues, including accidentally using the wrong lens. However, there was this striking and surprise encounter with the International Space Station flying over some light auroral purples at 3:10 a.m.

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Andre' GW Hagestedt is editor, owner and primary photographer / videographer of Oregon Coast Beach Connection, an online publication that sees over 1 million pageviews per month. He is also author of several books about the coast.

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