White-light image of the U.S. and Canada taken from space near 10 P.M. local time Monday, March 13, 1989, near the maximum phase of the largest auroral event since 1972. The bright band of light across southern Canada and northern U.S. is the visible aurora, or northern lights. The aurora was so bright that many fine details of auroral “bands,” “folds” and “curtains” are blotted out. At the maximum, auroral features were seen as far south as Houston, Tex.
The image was taken by the F9 satellite of the Defense Meteorology Satellite Program. City lights of the eastern half of the U.S. and Canada and some clouds and ground features illuminated by moonlight are seen in the image on the right, and in the Western half in the image on the left. The left image was obtained 100 minutes later than the right image. There is some overlap in the two images; for example, city lights of Dallas, Tex., appears in both images. The black line on the western image is a data-processing artifact.