Want to know what the night sky looks like after a solar storm smashes into Earth and rips a hole in the planet’s magnetic field?
A combination of cosmic events led to a rare explosion of vivid pink aurora that filled the night sky of Norway. The unusual colored light lasted for about two minutes and was caused by a crack in the Earth’s magnetic field that allowed solar particles, known as the solar wind, to enter the atmosphere on Nov. 3 at their most energetic, according to Spaceweather.com.
Greenlander tour guide Markus Varik spotted the dawn around 6 p.m. while taking a tour group around Tromsø, Norway, Varik told USA TODAY. Although the pink auroras were not the best he had ever witnessed before, the intensity of the color was “super rare” and “almost never happens,” Varik said.
Varik said he has led over 1,000 aurora tours in Norway over 10 years, but these were the strongest pink and purple colors he had witnessed in his entire life.
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Varik said auroras are usually green, the color of oxygen atoms hit by energetic particles, but purple shades can occur under “rare” conditions when electrons penetrate deep into the atmosphere and collide with nitrogen molecules.
“The northern lights are always different, never the same. It’s like us, the people, in our own ways, totally unique,” Varik said. “When we are blessed with angels to be able to experience these kinds of phenomena, it always feels very spiritual to me.”
Auroras, usually between 62 and 186 miles above Earth’s surface, are formed when streams of solar wind pass around the planet’s magnetic field and superheated gases, which then glow in the night sky.
Auroras are more common at the North and South Poles, areas with weaker shields for cosmic rays, according to NASA.
Camille Fine is a trending visual producer on USA TODAY’s NOW team.
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