The northern lights are not something we associate with the United States. Alaska, yes, but not the contiguous US. Yet it was recently reported that there might be a chance of catching a glimpse of the famed aurora borealis in the New York suburbs and even as far south as Washington, DC.

The aurora borealis over Bear Lake, Alaska. Pic: Beverly & Pack (Flickr CC)

The aurora borealis over Bear Lake, Alaska. Pic: Beverly & Pack (Flickr CC)

I don’t think anyone actually saw the northern lights in these areas, but the news that it was even possible was remarkable in itself, at least to someone like me who has very limited knowledge of the phenomenon. Even while the anticipated sun storm did not bring the aurora borealis to the US east coast, it did provide some great shows for Norway (as usual) and even a bit of night time beauty in Ireland as can be seen from this article in National Geographic.

While it initially appeared that a large auroral display would grace our skies, further analysis of space weather data showed that Mother Nature had her own plans. A blast of solar wind from a coronal hole might have actually shoved the Earth-directed solar storm off course, resulting in our planet receiving only a glancing blow, instead of a full blast of space weather.

–National Geographic

On the other side of the world and at a completely different time of day an equally, if not more uncommon, celestial event took place in Inner Mongolia, northern China. For two hours three suns appeared to be in the sky.

From Channel 4 News:

The illusion – a legitimate astronomical phenomenon – is also known as phantom sun or ice halo, according to the Chifeng Meteorological Bureau.

In some countries, it is called a “sun dog”, but its official name is the pathelia.

It appears when ice crystals create high clouds in the air around 6,000 metres above ground, and produce reflected sunlight.

Check out the video of the “three suns event”, as seen in the city of Chifeng, below.