In an extraordinary celestial spectacle, the spellbinding Aurora lights, typically associated with Polar Regions, were visible from Ladakh’s mesmeric skies. This unusual occurrence was captured by astronomers of the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bengaluru (IIA) through all-sky cameras positioned around the Indian Astronomical Observatory (IAO) in Hanle, Ladakh, and was witnessed with awe by star-gazers.

When did it happen? 

This space activity took place between midnight and the twilight hours of Saturday, with the peak activity reported at 2 am sparking curiosity. 

What are Auroras? 

Auroras, also known as the Northern and Southern Lights, are natural light displays caused by the interaction between charged particles from the sun and Earth's magnetic field. Typically, these colorful displays are predominantly seen in the Polar Regions due to the Earth's magnetic poles.

Aurora Lights

Reasons behind the sightings in Ladakh?

 Scientists have attributed this unusual sighting to at least four strong geomagnetic solar storms that arrived over Earth between Friday and Saturday which resulted in an increased solar activity. During such storms, solar winds carry charged particles toward Earth, enhancing the interaction with the planet's magnetic field and leading to heightened Aurora activity. The particularly strong geomagnetic storm likely extended the visibility of the Aurora lights to lower latitudes, including Ladakh, which is known for its clear skies and minimal light pollution, offering optimal conditions for stargazing. 

Furthermore, Ladakh's high altitude and proximity to the magnetic poles might have played a crucial role in making auroras in red, violet, and blue colors visible in the region. 

What is the source of these solar storms? 

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.

Traveling 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 traveling at a speed of 815km/second were recorded when they hit the Earth.

What is happening to the Sun?

Presently a series of CMEs have been predicted to come towards Earth by May 12, the reason being several magnetically active regions on the visible solar disk, currently producing multiple high-energy flares. 

 How hazardous are solar storms?

These intense solar storms can be harmful as they might induce heating in the Low Earth Orbit or LEO (an altitude ranging between 200-1,600 km). Leading to intolerable amounts of friction, which in extreme cases can ignite and burn down the satellites, ceasing their operations completely. 

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