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See photos: Northern lights on full display across US, Europe on Friday

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The northern lights provided a rare sight for residents across the U.S. and around the world Friday night, with a powerful solar storm fueling a spectacle seen as far south as the Florida Keys.

Strong solar flares the sun has been emitting since Wednesday morning were responsible for the northern lights being visible across a wide swath of North America and Europe.

Seven coronal mass ejections began entering the Earth’s outer atmosphere on Friday, said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The agency issued a rare Severe (G4) Geomagnetic Storm Watch this week for the first time in 19 years, but announced Friday evening that extreme (G5) conditions reached Earth at 6:54 p.m. Eastern time. The last extreme event occurred with the “Halloween storms” in October 2003.

Because the sun is at the height of its 11-year-cycle, conditions were optimal for the auroras to put on a light show that electrified sky watchers, and appeared to far more Americans than usual.

“I never in my wildest dreams thought I would see it from my front yard in Key Largo (Florida,) said Mike Theiss, a veteran extreme nature photographer and storm chaser. He’d been seeing the news about the solar storms all day Friday and was “a bit jealous” he would miss out on the auroras. But then he started seeing photos posted in real time on social media, in South Carolina, then Georgia and then the Bahamas.

Incredulous about that sighting, he figured he’d take a chance. “I walked out the front door and there were the lights. I could see a faint red glow with the naked eye,” Theiss told USA TODAY. “I was looking at the northern lights. I still can’t believe it.”

Here’s a look at some of the images captured around the U.S. and in Europe.

Northern lights: When could you see the northern lights? Aurora forecast for over a dozen states this weekend

Geomagnetic Storm: Solar storm is powerful enough to disrupt communications: Why NOAA says not to worry

‘Just in awe’

Aurora borealis in Florida

Aurora borealis in Europe

Contributing: Dinah Voyles Pulver, USA TODAY.

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