There was speculation on social media that the northern lights, which are commonly seen over places near the Arctic Circle, were visible from Ladakh last month. This was based on a time-lapse video shared by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics showing “aurora lights” from Ladakh’s Hanle observatory on April 23-24. However, sources at Hanle observatory have stated that the event is still being analyzed, but it appears to be a “stable auroral red (SAR) arc”, which is a rare occurrence in Ladakh. SAR arc is a band of static and monochromatic reddish light in the sky that appears during periods of geomagnetic activity caused by a wave of charged matter from the Sun. Although it is not a conventional aurora, the source at Hanle observatory said that it was still a once-in-a-lifetime event, if it was an SAR arc that appeared in the sky. As mentioned in TOI report.
Auroras, also known as polar lights or northern lights (aurora borealis) in the northern hemisphere and southern lights (aurora australis) in the southern hemisphere, are a natural phenomenon that occurs when charged particles from the Sun collide with atoms and molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere, creating beautiful displays of light.
In India, auroras are not commonly seen as they are usually visible at latitudes closer to the Earth’s magnetic poles, near the Arctic and Antarctic circles. However, there have been rare sightings of auroras in the northernmost parts of India, particularly in the Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir.
To spot auroras, one needs to be in a location with clear, dark skies away from light pollution, and with a view of the horizon in the direction of the auroral oval, where auroras are most likely to be seen. The best time to spot auroras is during the winter months in the northern hemisphere (December to February) and in the southern hemisphere (June to August), when the nights are longer and the skies are clearer.
It’s important to note that auroras are a natural phenomenon and can’t be predicted with certainty. Even in areas where auroras are commonly seen, they may not appear every night, so it’s important to be patient and to be prepared to spend several hours outside in the cold while waiting for them to appear.
Ladakh, located in the northernmost part of India, is one of the few places in the country where auroras have been spotted. This is because Ladakh is situated at a high altitude and is far away from sources of light pollution, making it an ideal location for stargazing and other astronomical observations. The clear, dark skies in Ladakh provide a good view of the horizon in the direction of the auroral oval, where auroras are most likely to be seen.
The reason why auroras are rarely seen in India is that the country is located at a lower latitude compared to the regions where auroras are commonly visible. Auroras are usually seen at latitudes between 60 and 70 degrees north or south of the Earth’s magnetic poles, while most of India lies below 30 degrees north latitude. However, during periods of intense solar activity, auroras can sometimes be seen at lower latitudes, including in India.
It’s important to note that while rare sightings of auroras have been reported in India, they are not a common occurrence, and it’s not guaranteed that they will be visible every night. To spot auroras in India, one would need to be in a location with clear, dark skies away from light pollution, and with a view of the horizon in the direction of the auroral oval. The best time to spot auroras is during the winter months, when the nights are longer and the skies are clearer.
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