Night of the Aurora | In the Dark


My social media feeds have been buzzing all day with images of last night’s display of the Aurora Borealis (and Australis) resulting from a large solar storm. I saw some great pictures from Ireland, including many from Maynooth and environs. I really liked this one taken from one of the ships of the Irish Naval Service:

I also saw pictures of the Aurora Borealis from the UK , USA and as far South in Europe as Marseilles, not to mention New Zealand (Aurora Australis) a

It’s not that unusual for the Northern Lights to be visible from Ireland, but it is extremely rare to see them from Catalonia. They were visible last night from Sabadell, just a few km North of Barcelona, though not as far as I know in Barcelona itself. I didn’t see anything, but I was otherwise engaged. The Observatory at Montsec Astronomical Park recorded the strongest level of Auroral activity for 150 years.

Auroral activity seen from Sabadell, picture credit Albert Segura Lorrio

All this reminds me that many moons ago, I once stood directly under an auroral display, in Tromsø (Norway), and I can tell you ever the word “awesome” applied to anything, this was it. The curious thing is that I had the definite feeling that there was a booming and whooshing sound to go with the light show. I wasn’t the only one there who thought they could hear it as well as see it. And I wasn’t drunk either. Well, not very.

Whenever I asked anyone about the sound my questions were dismissed on the grounds that there is no physical mechanism that could produce sound waves at audible frequencies of sufficient power to reach ground level from the altitude at which the light is generated. It must have been psychological, as if the brain wants to add a backing track when it sees something as spectacular as this. However, read at least one researcher is not so sure…

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