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Northern lights deliver stunning show over Yellowknife

The northern lights over Yellowknife snow sculptures on March 23, 2023. Photo: billbradenphoto
The northern lights over Yellowknife snow sculptures on March 23, 2023. Photo: billbradenphoto

The aurora delivered a blockbuster performance on Thursday night and into Friday morning, captured on camera by enthralled Yellowknife residents.

Even for a city that can count on weekly occurrences of the northern lights, the overnight display was special as a severe geomagnetic storm played out overhead.

Photographer and longtime Yellowknifer Bill Braden called it “a remarkably strong solar storm.”

The timing also helped. While seeing the lights at their peak often requires the stamina to be awake in the early hours, Thursday night’s aurora borealis descended at around 9pm and kept going for hours.

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The northern lights over Yellowknife snow sculptures on March 23, 2023. Photo: billbradenphoto
The northern lights over Yellowknife’s Snowcastle. Photo: billbradenphoto

Braden, president of the Snowkings’ Winter Festival society, described visitors to Yellowknife’s Snowcastle – who had attended a spoken-word event on Thursday evening – being dazzled as they left the venue.

“There were gasps of amazement at how vibrant the aurora were,” Braden told Cabin Radio.

“I almost lost my balance circling around to see everything everywhere all at once.

“It truly was a big deal, even for Yellowknife.”

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The website spaceweather.com, which issues aurora alerts and tracks the phenomenon, said forecasters had expected a minor to moderate storm but “completely missed” the severity – and consequent spectacle – of Thursday night’s event.

“Auroras spread into the United States as far south as Colorado and New Mexico during a severe geomagnetic storm, the most intense in nearly six years,” the website reported.

A geomagnetic storm watch remains in effect on Friday, with clear skies expected in at least some region of the Northwest Territories overnight into Saturday.

Yellowknife is forecast to expect a few clouds on Friday night, with clear nights throughout the weekend.