Pink Solar Storms
Now, you know me. I love a bit of pink! And at the start of November I'd heard that a solar storm caused a crack in Earth's magnetic field (already pretty insane) but this meant that particles went deep into the atmosphere of the planet and caused an explosion of REALLY rare pink auroras. The photos are IN.CRED.IBLE.
The picture I've popped here is from Norway during the solar storm on November 3rd this year. People close by said that the sky turned this incredible pink colour at about 6 pm local time and lasted for only a few minutes. So you had to be pretty lucky to see them.
But what is an Aurora?
Normally people will call auroras polar lights, and they're just a natural light display in the sky.
If you're close to the North Pole it's called an aurora borealis or the northern lights. So it's no surprise that if you're close to the South Pole instead, it's called an aurora australis or the southern lights.
What makes auroras happen?
Even though the lights are seen best at night, they're actually just caused by the sun.
They happen when streams of super energetic charged particles go around the magnetosphere (otherwise known as the bit around the earth that's controlled by our magnetic field).
Earth's magnetic field protects us from cosmic radiation, but the shield isn't as strong at the North and South Poles. This means that those particles I spoke about earlier skim through the earth's atmosphere.
As the super fast particles pass through the atmosphere and interact with all the gasses in our atmosphere this makes them then glow different colours.
Oxygen gives off the green and red light and it's thanks to nitrogen that you see those glowing blues and purples.
So why was this aurora so pink?
The lights you'll see in the sky in the North and South pole are obviously normally green. That's because oxygen atoms, which make up a lot of our atmosphere give that greeny hue when they are excited.
BUT this time, the crack in Earth's magnetosphere meant that the super-fast particles went lower than normal, where nitrogen is the most abundant gas, (according to Spaceweather.com). So because of this, the auroras gave off a neon pink glow as the supercharged particles smashed mostly into nitrogen atoms.
However, some experts aren't sure if this pink neon glow was some never-before-seen type of aurora caused by the compromised magnetosphere, or if it was the result of something else. One expert even suggested that the pink light could have been made up of frozen fuel from a Russian rocket, but no rockets were spotted in the area, according to Spaceweather.com....
Do other planets get auroras?
They sure do! They're not just something that happens on Earth. If a planet has an atmosphere and a magnetic field, it'll probably have auroras too. There are some really cool ones on Jupiter and Saturn that we have seen from NASA. I've left a photo of it below!
These swirls of red light are an aurora on the south pole of Saturn. Image courtesy of NASA/ESA/STScI/A. Schaller.
Pretty cool right!?