These New Northern Lights Photos Are Simply Breathtaking — And We Have a Rare Solar Storm To Thank For That
Seeing the night sky lit up with vibrant reds, greens, and purples may sound like something straight out of a sci-fi flick, but believe it or not, that not-so-little occurrence can be seen several times a month in some parts of the world. The phenomenon is officially called aurora borealis, though you may know it better by its more common name: the Northern Lights. Normally, this can only be spotted by those in northern latitudes; but on Monday, a rare solar storm made them visible in places much further away, allowing photographers to capture the Northern Lights in stunning photos I can't stop looking at.
According to BBC News, the Northern Lights result when the sun's charged particles encounter the Earth's magnetic field. But what does that really mean? In a nutshell, the northern and southern poles of the planet are magnetically charged; so when the sun's particles come towards the earth, they're attracted most to the poles, which in turn "excites" particles of gas. Those excited particles of gas then release into the air, cause the beautiful colors that make up the Northern Lights. According to CBS News, Monday's solar storm "released an enormous cloud of billions of tons of solar atmospheric material into the solar system." (Pretty amazing stuff.)
Mike Kosch, a professor at University of Lancaster, explained a similar shift to BBC News just last year. "When the sun has a major geomagnetic event," he said, "the flux of particles is so high that they can penetrate the Earth's atmosphere at lower latitudes, which is why in England it is only after these storms that we can see the lights." But thanks to the recent storm, the spectacular Northern Lights show could been seen as far south as Georgia, Colorado, Virginia, and Arkansas, according to The Christian Science Monitor. Doug Biesecker, a space weather physicist with the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association (NOAA), told the Associated Press that as of Monday, the storms had not causes any damages — just amazing light shows for anyone lucky enough to catch it.
Didn't get to see the lights? Check out these amazing photos of the Northern Lights captured last night. Because trust me, they are each a thing of beauty.