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Unexpected Northern lights in India, Ladakh

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Guwahati, May 13: Aurora lights in red hues were visible from Ladakh’s pristine skies late at night, in the intervening hours between Friday (May 10) and Saturday. Astronomers of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bengaluru (IIA) captured the auroras through all-sky cameras positioned around the Indian Astronomical Observatory (IAO) in Hanle, Ladakh.

Owned and operated by the IIA, IAO is equipped with these cameras capable of constantly imaging the sky. It showed that space activity persisted between midnight and the twilight hours of Saturday, with the peak activity reported at 2 am on Saturday.

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Auroras are bright and colourful lights, formed due to an active interaction in Space between charged solar winds and the Earth’s magnetosphere. Solar winds are ejections of charged particles from the Sun’s atmosphere, mostly composed of protons and electrons.

The source of these storms was Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs), which are large ejections of magnetic particles and plasma from the Sun’s corona – the outermost part of its atmosphere. These CMEs emerged from AR13664, currently an active region on the Sun, on May 8.

Unexpected Northern lights in India, Ladakh
Photo credit: Agnimitra Borah | Location: Vancouver, Canada

Travelling at 700km/second, the Earth-bound CMEs reached the closest to the Earth’s atmosphere on May 10 and 11, disturbing the otherwise calm Space weather. Solar flares travelling at a speed of 815km/second were recorded when they hit the Earth.

According to Indian solar physicists, the intensity of these incoming solar storms was much higher than average.

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