Solar Storm Makes Northern Lights Visible in Portland’s Night Skies

The aurora borealis could be visible through Sunday.

Northern lights arrive in the Portland metro-area. Photo by Matt McIntyre. RemasterDirector_1a5c03258

The northern lights have filled our skies and will synchronize three empty nights above Portland.

Death Cab aside, Portlanders were staked out across town Friday night, May 10, to see the aurora borealis, cameras at the ready. Long exposure photos reveal the dreamy, otherworldly greens and magentas glowing in the night. Without them, Portlanders might not have been able see them as vividly as they appear in movies.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center first reported significant solar storms May 5. The northern lights’ visibility this far south of the Arctic Circle is due to several coronal mass ejections, where the sun expels magnetic field and plasma mass. CMEs can cause problems for communications and power plants. The Federal Emergency Management Agency currently reports no outages or interruptions due to CMEs.

Matt McIntyre and his boyfriend were among scores of visitors to the Women’s Forum Lookout in the Columbia River Gorge on Friday night. They were trying to escape city light pollution, but even at that distance from Portland, McIntyre wrote via Facebook Messenger that he couldn’t see much activity in the sky without assistance.

“You could see the faintest of like light green streaks in the sky, but most of the coloring required the camera on night mode, long exposure to pick up the UV rays,” McIntyre wrote.

Northern lights arrive in the Portland metro-area. Photo by Matt McIntyre. RemasterDirector_1a5c03258

Meanwhile, poet Jzl Jmz stayed closer to home. She joined friends at the top of Mount Tabor after midnight on Friday, where she could take photos of the aurora on her phone.

“It was awesome to trek up the mountain with friends and see how many people were there,” she wrote via X’s direct messenger. “It sparked so many conversations about life, space and the future.”

When several CMEs merge on Sunday, May 12, the northern lights could be seen as far south as California and Alabama. They were last seen over Oregon in 2015.

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