Last weekend, November 10, a stream of rapid solar wind struck the Earth’s magnetic field, igniting a ring of auroras around the South Pole. Minoru Yoneto saw a red-violet glow in Queenstown, New Zealand.
“We were lucky that I caught another display during my surprise tour,” says Yoneto.
Queenstown is located at 45 degrees south latitude – at a considerable distance from the South Pole. That is why the auroras looked red. Auroras, circling the South Pole, must reach a very high level above the surface of the Earth to be visible in the hemisphere. At altitudes of more than ~ 200 km, the auroras become red. The ruby glow occurs when particles of high energy from space enter oxygen atoms in the upper part of the atmosphere. Ionized molecular nitrogen adds a touch of violet to the high-altitude palette.