In an extraordinary celestial display, the skies over Mongolia turned deep, blood-red as the country experienced one of the rarest auroral events on Friday and early Saturday. The intense colouration is attributed to the initial impact of a significant solar storm that collided with Earth, creating a spectacle that left onlookers in awe.
The phenomenon, known as an aurora, typically occurs closer to the poles and is often green in colour. However, the auroras seen in Mongolia were of a striking crimson hue, a rarity caused by the interaction of solar particles with oxygen at high altitudes — over 241 kilometres above the Earth’s surface, where the atmosphere is much thinner.
This particular shade of red is considered the most uncommon colour of the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, and its appearance is closely linked to periods of intense solar activity.
The ongoing solar storm responsible for this event was the result of multiple coronal mass ejections (CMEs) from the Sun, which occurred on November 27, 2023. These CMEs sent a barrage of high-energy particles hurtling towards Earth, with the first wave reaching our planet late on November 29.
The occurrence of the red aurora in Mongolia has provided scientists with a unique opportunity to study the effects of solar storms at lower latitudes. While the sight may be mesmerizing, it also serves as a reminder of the Sun’s immense power and the potential impact of solar weather on our technologically dependent society.
As the solar cycle progresses towards its predicted peak in 2024, skywatchers can expect more such displays of auroral beauty, though few may rival the intensity and rarity of Mongolia’s blood red skies.