ASHEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) – On Thursday night, residents of western North Carolina experienced a rare celestial treat as the northern lights made an appearance in the region.

This extraordinary phenomenon was caused by an unusually strong coronal mass ejection (CME) that reached Earth earlier this week.

Although last night’s auroras were too faint to be seen in Raleigh, stunning photographs captured in western North Carolina attest to the beauty of this rare event.

(Twitter photo from @AshevillePictu1 &

These images showcase the faint hues of the auroras illuminating the northern sky in portions of North Carolina near Asheville.

(Evan Fisher Twitter: @EFisherWX)

CMEs, also known as solar flares, are powerful bursts of energy and particles ejected by the sun. While they occur frequently, they often don’t reach Earth due to the vast distances involved.

When they do, our planet’s magnetic field typically deflects them. However, this particular CME was strong enough to bypass Earth’s magnetic shield, allowing the energy and particles to reach the north and south poles.

As these particles and energy filtered down through North America, they produced the auroral activity observed in the northern night sky.

The display took the form of a subtle purple shade across the sky, rather than the more extreme multi-colored ribbons often seen in photographs or movies. This rare sighting of the northern lights in North Carolina provided a memorable experience for those lucky enough to witness it.