The Indian Astronomical Observatory above Mount Saraswati captured a rare phenomenon as a geomagnetic storm struck Earth's magnetic field, creating unique auroras. This was the first time that the aurora was captured on camera in India by the Indian Astronomical Observatory.
The 360-degree camera atop the IAO in Ladakh Hanle captured the mysterious phenomenon, which is triggered by an interaction between the plasma particles hurled by the Sun and Earth's magnetic field, stated a report.
What causes an aurora?
When the solar wind - which is a stream of charged particles ejected from the Sun - collides with Earth's magnetic field, it causes a geomagnetic storm. When this happens, the charged particles interact with the molecules and atoms in the Earth's atmosphere, causing a burst of energy that we see as an aurora.
Geomagnetic storm causes rare aurora in India
On the night of April 22-23, the Indian Astronomical Observatory in Ladakh Hanle captured a rare sight - an aurora at a low latitude. The aurora lights were seen due to an intense geomagnetic storm that hit the Earth, which is triggered by a coronal mass ejection (CME) from the Sun.
When a CME is released, it sends billions of tons of charged particles hurtling into space at incredible speeds. These particles can travel at up to 3 million kilometers per hour, and if they're aimed in the direction of Earth, they can cause all sorts of effects when they arrive.
The CME that hit Earth on April 21 traveled at a speed of 21,60,000 kilometers per hour, leading to an excellent night for auroral activity. This rare event allowed the aurora to be seen from lower-than-usual latitudes, from Europe, China, and Ladakh in India. Such a severe geomagnetic storm last occurred in 2015.
The significance of capturing the aurora in India
The Indian Institute of Astrophysics, which operates the observatory at a height of over 3000 meters above sea level, said in a tweet that it is extremely rare to see the aurora at such a low latitude. This event shows the potential of the Indian Astronomical Observatory in Ladakh Hanle for capturing astronomical events that are not usually seen in India.
This achievement is a testament to the development of science and technology in India and the potential for further growth in the field. The Indian government's focus on investing in science and technology is essential to expand the country's capacity to observe and study such events.
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