If the devil went down to Georgia this week, he must have traded in his fiddle for blood-red auroras.
A cloud of charged particles from the sun slammed into Earth Monday, setting off an intense geomagnetic storm that spawned northern lights across the U.S.—even in the Deep South. Sky shows were reported in more than half the 50 states, including Georgia, Alabama, and Arkansas, according to Spaceweather.com.
Seen in the picture above, the auroral display in Michigan featured the familiar green curtains of light tinged with deep red. According to photographer Shawn Malone, the auroras filled the sky in all directions, even toward the south, offering the best light show he's seen since 2004.
Farther south, the northern lights more often appeared as rare, all-red auroras.
The northern lights create as a ruby-red haze in the night sky over Arkansas late Monday.
Auroras are created when charged solar particles collide with molecules in Earth's atmosphere, infusing the molecules with extra energy that then gets emitted as light.
Familiar green auroras appear lower in the atmosphere, around 60 miles (100 kilometers) above the surface. The light is actually a mix of colors, but the human eye is most attuned to the green part of the spectrum, according to the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Sometimes, however, an influx of slower moving, less energetic particles can make auroras appear higher in the atmosphere, around 185 to 310 miles (300 to 500 kilometers). At these altitudes, the light displays are pure red.
The star-spangled sky over Kansas is interrupted by a rare auroral glow in a fisheye picture taken Monday night.
The northern lights weren't visible to the naked eye, according to photographer Jim Hammer. But the sky show came alive in long-exposure pictures, like this one snapped about 10 miles (16 kilometers) north of Wichita (map).
The northern lights seem to create a big red spot amid a sky full of green auroras in a picture taken very early Tuesday from Marquette, Michigan (map).
The sun has been ramping up its activity over the past year, heading toward the next maximum in its roughly 11-year cycle.
Eruptions from the solar surface have been linked to coronal mass ejections (CME), huge clouds of particles that can come hurtling from the sun's upper atmosphere in any direction. Monday's auroral display was most likely caused by a CME on Saturday that was aimed at Earth.
Alerts of the incoming CME had many photographers racing outside Monday night to capture the show—even in places where auroras are very rare. People farther north reported seeing especially dazzling displays, while those in the south were amazed to see the lights for the first time in years.
"The auroras only [lasted] a few minutes. But hey it was awesome!" veteran astrophotographer Jeff Berkes, of West Chester, Pennsylvania, said in an email to Space.com.
Hints of red peek through the bright green auroras seen over Lake Superior in a picture taken from Marquette, Michigan, early Tuesday.
Treated to a similar view over the lake from nearby Munising Bay (map), Tom Dolaskie IV told Space.com that the aurora was "hands down the most amazing northern lights display that I have ever witnessed.
"Frankly, [it was] a setting that a photograph simply cannot capture. My friends and I were lucky to have witnessed it."