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The spectacular northern lights were enhanced by amped-up solar winds, explains NASA researcher.
An unexpected solar geomagnetic storm hit Earth on April 20. As a result, the skies in the Northern Hemisphere lit up with a stunning light show of uniquely colored auroras, Space.com reports.
The United States and Canada witnessed a mesmerizing display of green and “electric-blue” auroras, which streaked across the sky to the delight of lucky observers.
People in different parts of the world took photos of the dazzling sight and shared them on social media, commenting on the spectacular northern lights.
Many woke up before sunrise to the sight of the rare auroras; others admired them through the night, as they were reportedly bright enough to eclipse the city night lights.
Philip Granrud, from Kalispell, Montana, took this photo of an intense green aurora and reported it was so bright that it could be seen from inside the city.
Though most people had to point their cameras up to the sky to catch a snapshot of the “amazing northern lights,” one person got to experience the phenomenon from a unique view point, notes Space.com.
Pilot Matt Melnyk was 39,000 feet up in the sky when he spotted what he described as “electric-blue auroras.” Melnyk was on a flight from Edmonton to Toronto and stumbled upon the magnificent sight over northern Manitoba.
The pilot managed to capture some quick snapshots of the electric-blue auroras and uploaded them on the Spaceweather.com gallery.
“I’ve been flying airplanes for 20 years and photographing the Aurora for 10 years and I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Melnyk wrote in the snapshots’ description.
According to Space.com, reports of green and electric-blue auroras came from as far south in the Northern Hemisphere as the U.S. state of Indiana.
The rare northern lights were even spotted over the Australian island of Tasmania, in the Southern Hemisphere.
The dazzling light show lit up the sky courtesy of an unusual geomagnetic storm. Unlike typical geomagnetic storms, which are usually caused by solar flares, the one that hit Earth on Friday was due to an “interplanetary shock wave” Space.com reports, citing Spaceweather.com.
The shockwave — essentially “a high-speed stream of particles” leaking from a hole in the sun’s corona, NASA researcher Yari Coloado-Vega told Space.com — struck Earth’s magnetic field at about 3:50 a.m. E.D.T (23:50 on April 19 G.M.T), “quadrupling the intensity” of the solar wind.
The amplified solar particles that showered our planet later translated into a G2-level or “moderate” geomagnetic storm, informed the Space Weather Prediction Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
These types of storms are known to produce brighter auroras, among which the blue ones are the rarest. According to Space.com, blue auroras are born when solar winds encounter charged nitrogen molecules. The more common green and yellow northern lights occur when charged particles from the sun hit oxygen molecules.
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