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Beautiful And Rare Christmas Day “Polar Rain” Aurora Finally Explained

Polar rain northern lights

The never-before-seen “polar rain” aurora that covered the remote arctic island of Svalbard, Norway, on Christmas Day 2022 has finally been explained.

Residents who woke up during the early morning hours that December 25th and 26th looked to the sky and saw a strange Northern Lights display. Typically, auroras appear on the horizon as dancing lines that often change colors between green, pink, red, and blue. But on those days, they put on an entirely different show.

Firstly, the Northern Lights covered 2,500 miles, which was unheard of. Second, the aurora did not move. Instead, it blanketed over the sky in solid sections of green.

“This aurora [was] very smooth in shape,” Keisuke Hosokawa, a space physicist at the University of Electro-Communications in Tokyo, Japan, told National Geographic. “And the structure is just a diffuse patch of greenish stuff. It [was] like a big greenish cake.”

It was the first time scientists had observed the phenomenon from the ground, and it took over a year and a half to understand why it happened.

A Rare Chain Of Events Created The “Polar Rain” Northern Lights

The Northern Lights appear when energized solar particles hit Earth’s upper atmosphere. From there, the planet’s magnetic field sends them towards the poles. The process creates intense colors, and solar winds cause them to dance.

When the “polar rain” aurora illuminated the sky, the winds had almost stopped entirely. At that same time, a coronal hole opened on the sun’s surface, which sent “an intense flux of electrons” to the atmosphere. When those particles moved from the sun to the Earth, they became trapped in the magnetic field, and they were not pushed by the turbulent winds that often reach 500 mph, wrote Space.com.

It is extremely rare for those events to happen in tandem. But because it did, it allowed the particles to fall like a gentle, windless rain.

You can read a more in-depth explanation in a study published in Science Advances.

This story’s featured image is by ginger_polina_bublik via Shutterstock.

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