Many Americans got the rare treat of seeing the aurora borealis on Monday.
Nature’s own light show, most commonly known as Northern Lights, could be seen in states from the Midwest to Southeastern U.S.–a rarity for North America.
Reports of a pink and green or sometimes red sky were made starting at nightfall, and sent a flood of pictures to local news stations and on social networking sites like Twitter.
According to SpaceWeather.com, the lights became visible eight hours earlier than expected.
Aurora borealis occurs when electrically charged solar particles released by the sun’s solar flares collide with atoms in the Earth’s geomagnetic fields, creating a storm.
Since the Earth’s magnetic filed is strongest closest to the poles, those who live close to the Arctic Circle see the Northern Lights regularly. It is unusual for the lights to be seen this far south, but happened this time because the solar flare was particularly powerful and atmospheric conditions were just right.
Geomagnetic storms are rated on a five point scale, with G1 being the lowest. The National Weather Service said that Monday’s event reached a single period of G2 level and was followed by several periods of G1 storming. G5 level storms–the strongest on the scale–can often cause problems with the electricity grid and with spacecrafts and satellites.
If you missed the rare, magnificent occurrence, you’re unfortunately out of luck. “Unfortunately for sky watchers, the geomagnetic storm appears to be in decline and no further significant space weather is expected at this time,” the NWS stated.
Watch a time lapse video of aurora borealis below: