Solar Spectacle: A Memorable Flight Under the Northern Lights

By Ivan PetrenkoMay 14, 2024 00:30 AMNews
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Northern lights over snow capped mountian
Northern lights over snow capped mountian. Source: unsplash

On a seemingly ordinary weekend, passengers on several flights experienced an extraordinary phenomenon — the Northern Lights, visible far south of their typical geographical range due to a significant solar storm. This rare event occurred as these commercial flights were in transit, cruising at an altitude of about 37,000 feet.

A severe geomagnetic storm, triggered by a burst of solar energy from the sun, reached Earth last Friday, prompting the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to issue a rare warning. This alert was aimed at operators of power grids, spacecraft, and emergency services like FEMA, advising them of potential disruptions caused by the storm.

The flights turned into impromptu viewing parties, with passengers sharing their experiences and breathtaking photographs on social media. Among them, Brian Yutko, a passenger on a Delta Air Lines flight from Seattle to Boston, captured vivid images showcasing vibrant purple, pink, and green hues of the aurora. His post echoed the sentiment of many, marking the journey as perhaps the "Best. Flight. Ever."

The pilots on some of these flights took extraordinary measures to ensure that passengers could enjoy the stunning light show. One pilot of a Boeing 737 on an eastbound transcontinental flight even altered the aircraft's course and dimmed the cabin lights to provide passengers with a clearer view, repeating a similar maneuver done by another pilot back in February 2023.

Iceland, one of the prime locations for viewing the Northern Lights due to its geographic position, also celebrates this natural marvel through cultural expressions. Icelandair has an aircraft named "Hekla Aurora," specifically designed with an aurora-themed livery, enhancing the experience for its passengers by mimicking the northern lights inside the cabin.

This weekend's display of the Northern Lights, caused by one of the strongest solar storms in recent history, was a reminder of the dynamic and beautiful interactions between Earth's atmosphere and solar energy. The event was not only a spectacle but also a demonstration of how nature's surprises can transform ordinary experiences into lifelong memories.

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