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Photographer captures "Sky-high magic" The answer is light

The sky lit up with colorful lights late last month when the strongest geomagnetic storm in recent years unleashed far-reaching and intense northern lights. And one gets to see it up close and personal.

Mohrnab Saikia was flying from Seattle, Washington to Fairbanks, Alaska on March 24 when the sky lit up outside her window. He posted a video of the light on his photography Instagram account, calling it “sky-high magic.”

He told Newsweek that he saw the light about two hours into his flight. At first he thought he was just seeing light in the wind, but then he decided to take a long exposure photo and before he knew it, he “saw a faint green color.”

“After a while, the aurora was so strong that I could see waves dancing green all over the sky,” he said. “Almost the entire sky was filled with its peaks.”

Saikia took as many photos as she could before her “hands started to go numb,” she said, and then used those photos to create a timelapse. And the results were nothing short of spectacular – bright green lights could be seen in the night sky just behind the plane’s wings.

He later shared the footage to Reddit and said the experience left him “incredulous and nervous,” Newsweek reported.

“It was the strongest (geomagnetic storm) in years,” he said.

Flights from Seattle to Fairbanks

The March 24 event, marked as the strongest geomagnetic storm to hit the planet in nearly six years, became so intense that auroras were visible as far away as New Mexico, according to Space.com. One of the last storms to reach the G4 “intense” level occurred in September 2017, according to NOAA.

Scientists first warned of a possible storm a few days ago when they observed a coronal hole high speed stream and a coronal mass ejection. But at the time, they were only expecting to hit a “moderate” G2 level on NOAA’s scale of 1-5. Shortly after midnight on March 24, however, the storm hit G4 — a level that could cause “extensive voltage control problems,” orientation problems for spacecraft handling and navigation problems. G4 storms are known to make auroras visible as far south as Alabama.

Reached G4 (serious) level! If you have clear skies tonight, look for the aurora where it may be visible. pic.twitter.com/kiMh9203m0

— NOAA Space Weather (@NWSSWPC) March 24, 2023

Speaking to Newsweek, Saikia said it was an “amazing event”.

“I was very excited,” he said. “I was speechless, amazed and also anxious because I knew this was a once-in-a-lifetime experience and opportunity to photograph.”

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Lee Cohen


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