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Aurora lights in India: What caused them to be visible even from Ladakh?

A recent spectacle in Ladakh’s night skies has left astronomers and enthusiasts awestruck. The emergence of aurora lights in red hues, a phenomenon typically reserved for high-latitude regions, has sparked curiosity among stargazers and scientists alike. Let’s delve deeper into this captivating event and understand the science behind it.

Late at night, between May 10 and 11, astronomers from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) captured the mesmerizing aurora lights through all-sky cameras positioned around the Indian Astronomical Observatory (IAO) in Hanle, Ladakh. This event sheds light on the significance of continuous sky monitoring facilitated by advanced technology.

Auroras are dazzling displays of light, resulting from the interaction between charged solar winds and the Earth’s magnetosphere. These charged particles, predominantly protons and electrons, collide with atoms and molecules in the Earth’s upper atmosphere, producing luminous phenomena akin to neon lights.

The recent visibility of auroras in Ladakh can be attributed to heightened solar flare activity in space. Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs), massive eruptions of magnetic particles and plasma from the Sun’s corona, triggered these captivating displays. The intensity of these solar storms was notably higher than average, allowing auroras to be observed even in lower-latitude regions like Ladakh.

Solar physicists from the Centre of Excellence in Space Science India highlighted the occurrence of four strong solar storms between May 10 and 11. These storms, originating from active regions on the Sun’s surface, unleashed a barrage of charged particles towards Earth, culminating in auroral displays of unprecedented intensity.

Intense solar storms pose significant threats to satellite operations, particularly those in Low Earth Orbit (LEO). The heightened particle environment can disrupt satellite communications, navigation systems, and even induce heating in the Earth’s upper atmosphere, potentially endangering satellite integrity.

The recent sighting of auroras in Ladakh serves as a testament to the dynamic interaction between celestial bodies and our planet. As we unravel the mysteries of space, it becomes imperative to comprehend the implications of solar activity on Earth’s technological infrastructure.

Q: What causes auroras?

A: Auroras result from the interaction between charged solar winds and the Earth’s magnetosphere, leading to the emission of light in the upper atmosphere.

Q: Are auroras only visible in polar regions?

A: While auroras are predominantly observed in high-latitude regions, intense solar activity can extend their visibility to lower latitudes, as demonstrated by the recent event in Ladakh.

Q: How do solar storms affect satellite operations?

A: Solar storms can disrupt satellite communications, navigation systems, and induce heating in the Earth’s upper atmosphere, posing significant challenges to satellite operations, particularly those in Low Earth Orbit (LEO).

Q: Are there any long-term implications of heightened solar activity?

A: Prolonged solar activity can have far-reaching consequences, including disruptions to global communication networks, potential hazards to space missions, and increased radiation exposure for astronauts.

Q: How can individuals observe auroras?

A: Auroral displays are best observed in dark, clear skies away from light pollution. Monitoring space weather forecasts and staying informed about solar activity can enhance the chances of witnessing this celestial spectacle.

References

  • Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA)
  • Centre of Excellence in Space Science India
  • US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

Reference link: https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/explained-sci-tech/aurora-lights-india-ladakh-9323390/


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