A spectacular display of rare pink auroras washed across the sky above Norway on November 3. The show was witnessed by a tour group led by Markus Varik, a local northern lights guide. Varik managed to capture several stunning shots despite the fact that the pink colors only lasted about two minutes.
“These were the strongest pink auroras I have seen in more than a decade of leading tours,” Varik told Live Science. “It was a humbling experience.”
Despite his experience guiding aurora tours inside the Arctic Circle, the guide said in an email to spaceweather.com that he’s never seen anything quite like this display.
“I thought I’d seen it all,” he said.
Pink Auroras vs. Green Auroras
Pink auroras are far rarer than green ones. According to spaceweather, the reason has to do with the Earth’s magnetic field.
Normal auroras occur higher in the atmosphere (between 100 and 300 kilometers), where oxygen particles excited by solar wind emit a green glow. Normally, the Earth’s magnetic field prevents solar wind from traveling any further.
During this event, however, a class G-1 solar storm temporarily punched a hole in magnetosphere, allowing energetic solar particles to sink much deeper into the Earth’s atmosphere than usual (below the 100km mark).
At that altitude, the atmosphere contains a higher percentage of nitrogen, which glows in a different color than oxygen when excited.
The result? A shimmering light show in pinks and purples. Even better for the tour group watching the rare occurrence, the colors were just as vibrant with the naked eye as they were with the camera. Auroras are one of the few things that the camera’sees’ more vividly than the human eye.
“It didn’t look like any auroras I have ever seen before,” Chad Blakley, director of LIghts over Lapland, told spaceweather.
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