Magical night across France, with fascinating pink-tinted Northern Lights

The phenomenon, which offers an incredible spectacle, is the consequence of a solar storm.



Reading time: 2 min

An aurora borealis observed from Isère, May 10, 2024. (SIGRID DUCARRE / X)

A festival throughout France, and well beyond. Many images of the Northern Lights appeared on social networks on Friday May 10, with shades of pink and purple in the sky. This phenomenon is the consequence of a solar storm of rare intensity, during which “a cloud of gas is ejected quickly, heated”, explains to franceinfo Eric Lagadec, astrophysicist at the Côte d’Azur Observatory. “These northern lights can appear when this gas interacts with the atmosphere and the magnetic field. There have been a few northern lights in recent months, but this one is really big.”comments the astrophysicist, who received, at the same time, “hundreds of photographs from all over France”.

“There have been at least four solar flares and that’s all that’s happening.”, further comments the researcher. These “coronal mass” ejections come from a sunspot approximately sixteen times the diameter of the Earth, traveling several hundred kilometers per second. “The Sun has an activity cycle of ten to thirteen years and we are in a peak.” This phenomenon concerns both the Northern and Southern hemispheres, explains Eric Lagadec, but it is even more evident in the North, more accustomed to this type of observations. “In Sweden and Norway, they must be having a blast. This should happen soon in Quebec if conditions are stable, and they seem to be.”

Eric Lagadec advises the curious to go out and look towards the North, moving away from any source of light. And even in the obvious absence of the Northern Lights, it is also possible to take photographs with a long exposure time, to potentially see some nice surprises appear upon arrival. And if you missed the night’s spectacle, persevere. “There’s still a chance there will be tomorrow.”

The current event should be of a completely different magnitude, although still smaller than the solar storm of 1859, the largest recorded according to NASA. Also known as the Carrington event, it corresponded to a level 5 event, and had severely disrupted telegraph communications.

source site-15