Insight & Analysis

Rare sightings, mysterious spirals and space

Published: May 2023

The last few months have been busy with unusual northern lights activity and news stories as the aurora has made an appearance much further south than normal.

The northern lights are a bucket list attraction for most, usually restricted to Iceland, Canada and Alaska. With missing these spectacular lights listed as the biggest travel regret for the older generation, many might recently have had the opportunity to catch this highly sought after view.

Lucky Brits had an unexpected sighting of the aurora borealis, with awe inspiring photographs appearing online of the purple and green shafts, some above historic landmarks, such as Stonehenge, and reaching as far south as the Isles of Scilly.

But this sighting wasn’t exclusive to Britain; these polar lights were spotted in over 30 US states, and a large portion of Europe. Most shocking are the reports of the aurora sighted in India for the first time ever.

The northern lights are created by electrically charged particles from space entering the Earth’s upper atmosphere at a very high speed. The extremely rare sighting of the aurora so close to the equator is due to a geomagnetic storm, yet it was the exact timing of the storm that allowed so many photographers and observers to witness the lights.

This unusual activity comes after the northern lights made headlines for the stunning photo of the aurora from space. Josh Cassada, who launched to the International Space Station back in October, shared this unusual perspective on his twitter with the caption ‘Absolutely unreal.’

And only a week prior to these unusual sightings a ‘mysterious spiral’ in the northern lights left photographers and watches in Alaska bewildered. The spiral, which looked like a hazy, glowing galaxy is a rarely captured occurrence caused by fuel released from a rocket.

These activities have keen observers wondering, what stunning rarity will the natural phenomenon bring next?

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