Mysterious blue ‘aurora’ over Lapland surprises skywatchers
On Thursday (November 3), a mysterious blue ribbon of light appeared in the sky over Abisko, a small village in the heart of Swedish Lapland.
“Our team of photographers shoots the night sky for over a decade and this event was unlike anything we’ve ever seen,” said Chad Blakley, the director of the aurora tour company Lights over Lapland (opens in new tab).
Initially, skywatchers believed it to be an aurora, albeit a very strange one. But as the minutes passed, they saw the blue light stand still—a stark contrast to the green aurora dancing around it. Then they realized that the blue glow was something unique.
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The northern Lightsor aurora borealis, are caused when activated particles of the sun smash Soil‘s upper atmosphere – the ionosphere – and are diverted to the poles by Earth’s magnetic field. The colors are determined by the chemical composition of the earth’s atmospherewith green produced by oxygen molecules and red by nitrogen.
Knowing that this was no ordinary aurora, Blakley contacted experts in the field to try and determine what might be causing the strange light show.
“My first point of contact was Dr. Tony Phillips from spaceweather.com,” Blakley said. “Dr Phillips is an old friend of mine and he was as amazed at the blue glow as I was.”
According to Blakely, Phillips continued to contact other experts in the field and eventually concluded that the strange blue aurora may have been caused by a Russian submarine testing ICBMs (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles).
Various news items from the Eurasian Times (opens in new tab) and Reuters (opens in new tab) reported that on the same day as the blue “aurora”, Russia had successfully fired a Bulava ballistic missile from the Russian nuclear submarine Generalissimus Suvorov in the White Sea.
This isn’t the first time a rocket test may have caused such a strange “aurora” light show. According to spaceweather.com (opens in new tab) On October 27, 2017, similar blue ribbons were observed in the skies over the Arctic Circle, after Russia launched a number of missiles during a combat exercise.
If you’re hoping to see the Northern Lights for yourself, check out our guide on where and how to photograph the aurora. And if you want to capture them on camera, consider our picks for the best equipment for aurora photography and how to edit aurora photos. If you need equipment, our roundups for the best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography can get you ready for the next aurora event.
Can’t attend an aurora light show in person? Light over Lapland also houses the longest running aurora webcam on Earth. It has been taking stills of the night sky every five seconds for more than a decade. You can view images from this webcam and also real-time high-definition aurora webcam on their website (opens in new tab).
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