The Hanle and Merak observatories in Ladakh, which capture pictures of the night sky, recently spotted an unexpected yet stunning celestial event In India – a rare red aurora. According to Bengaluru’s Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA), the rare redness in the skies was observed on Sunday, and the unusual spectacle was attributed to a Stable Auroral Red (SAR) arc, which is a rare atmospheric phenomenon that paints the sky in vivid shades of red, instead of more common green and blue lights that are typically associated with auroras at higher altitudes.
“Red auroral activity, attributed to a SAR event, was seen on 5 November from our observatories in Hanle and Merak in Ladakh! This was due to a geomagnetic storm caused by a solar storm #Aurora #RedAurora,” IIA Bengaluru wrote on X (formerly Twitter).
Take a look below:
Red auroral activity, attributed to a SAR event, was seen on 5 November from our observatories in Hanle and Merak in Ladakh! This was due to a geomagnetic storm caused by a solar storm #Aurora#RedAurora@dstindia@asipoec@cessi_iiserkol@dorje1974@NASASun@spaceweatherpic.twitter.com/BlsrMRif9j
— IIAstrophysics (@IIABengaluru) November 9, 2023
The SAR event was triggered by a geometric storm on November 3. According to IIA, the red aurora phenomenon was visible towards the northern horizon from 10 pm until midnight, with its intensity peaking around 10:39 pm.
“Ejected particles and magnetic fields from a solar storm on the Sun on 3 November hit the Earth’s magnetosphere, and a geomagnetic storm started on 5 November. Regular aurorae occur at high latitudes, but this red emission, attributed to ‘Stable Auroral Arc,’ was seen even in Ladakh,” the IIA said.
The institute also explained that the “red emission from Oxygen atoms in the upper atmosphere from a Stable Auroral Arc due to a geomagnetic storm was seen towards the North from both Hanle and Merak for about two hours around 10:40 pm on 5 November 2023”.
This SAR event was not exclusive to Ladakh. Multiple locations around the world also witnessed the phenomenon, making it a global astronomical event.
Notably, auroras are vibrant displays of light that are caused when gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere and charged particles from the Sun collide. This phenomenon occurs in the Earth’s upper atmosphere and is mostly seen at high or polar latitudes. However, if there is a strong solar flare, the charged particles can travel further away from the poles into middle latitudes.
The colours of the aurora are affected by the types of gas particles in the Earth’s atmosphere with which the solar wind particles collide. Nitrogen produces blue and purple colours, whereas oxygen produces green and red colours.