A solar storm has made a hole in the Earth’s magnetosphere, causing an extremely rare pink glow. High-energy solar particles penetrated deeper into the atmosphere than usual.
A tourist group led by Markus Varik, a guide from Greenlander, was lucky enough to see a stunning light show on November 3. Bright aurora borealis appeared near Troms in Norway at about six pm local time and lasted only two minutes.
At the same time, scientists discovered a small gap in the Earth’s magnetic field. It allowed high-energy solar particles to penetrate deeper into the atmosphere than usual – this caused unusual colored lights.
These were the strongest pink auroras I have seen in more than a decade of work,
– said Marcus Varick.
Varik said even the usual green aurora borealis was stronger that night.
What are auroras, and how are they formed
Auroras are formed when streams of high-energy charged particles, the solar wind, pass around the magnetosphere.
The planet’s magnetic field shields us from cosmic radiation. Still, the shield is weaker at the North and South Poles, allowing the solar wind to penetrate the atmosphere – usually between 100 and 300 kilometers above the Earth’s surface.
As solar particles pass through the atmosphere, they heat gases, which glow brightly in the night sky.
Auroras are most often green because oxygen atoms, abundant in the part of the atmosphere where the solar wind usually reaches, emit this hue when they interact.
During the recent solar storm, a crack in the Earth’s magnetosphere allowed the solar wind to penetrate below 100 kilometers, where nitrogen is the most abundant gas. As a result, the aurorae emitted a neon-pink glow.
The hole in the magnetosphere closed after about 6 hours.
Our Sun is heading towards the peak of its activity, expected in 2025. Soon, we can expect more frequent and powerful magnetic storms and even more auroras.