Advertisment

Enigma in the Sky: Rare Orange Aurora Borealis Dazzles Experts

author-image
Sakchi Khandelwal
Updated On
New Update
Enigma in the Sky: Rare Orange Aurora Borealis Dazzles Experts

In the quiet, frosty skies of Canada, a spectacle of nature recently unfolded that has left experts both puzzled and fascinated. The northern lights, or aurora borealis, usually a mesmerizing dance of greens and reds, surprisingly lit up the sky in a hue of vibrant orange. Captured by the astute lens of photographer Harlan Thomas, this rare event followed a solar storm that hit the Earth.

Advertisment

A Rare Luminary Phenomenon

Normally, auroras occur when high-energy particles from solar winds or coronal mass ejections penetrate the Earth's magnetosphere, exciting gas particles in our upper atmosphere. As these particles return to their ground state, they release energy in the form of light—typically red and green, emitted by oxygen particles at different altitudes. On rarer occasions, solar particles penetrating deeper can excite nitrogen particles, producing pink auroras. But a bright, pumpkin-like orange? This was a mystery.

There's nothing in our atmosphere that can naturally produce such an intense orange color. Experts now theorize that this extraordinary display could be due to a blend of red and green lights. The last time such a vivid orange hue graced our night sky was 20 years ago, during a severe solar storm.

Advertisment

When Red and Green Deceive

According to Kilmar Oksavik, a space weather scientist and aurora expert at the University of Bergen in Norway, a unique mix of processes that produce the red and green auroras might have deceived our eyes—and the camera—into perceiving the color as orange. It's not truly orange, but rather an elusive cocktail of red and green.

While the red and green auroras frequently occur together, an “orange” aurora is exceedingly rare. The orange color tends to be more prominent in the center of large auroral arcs—vertical columns of light aligned along the invisible magnetic field lines. These arcs being composed of both red and green light are uncommon.

Advertisment

The Echo of a Solar Storm

The last time such a striking orange color was witnessed was during the Great Halloween Storm in 2003, the most powerful solar storm in recent records. Then, orange lights were observed across North America and Northern Europe.

This latest display of orange aurora borealis in Canada highlights the beauty and complexity of our planet's atmosphere, and the delicate interplay between solar particles and the Earth's magnetic field. As we continue to unravel the mysteries of these celestial dances, each unique display serves as a stark reminder of our intricate ties to the cosmos.

Advertisment
Advertisment