Rare northern lights occurrence surprises veteran tour guide
Each occurrence of the northern lights is different from the last, unique in its own way, according to tour guide Markus Varik, but when he looked up on Nov. 2, what he saw took his breath away.
Markus Varik has worked under the northern lights for roughly a decade and led over 1,000 tours to view the ethereal display, but on one November night he found the Arctic firmament still held a few more surprises.
On Nov. 2, 2022, the night sky over Tromsø, Norway, a town north of the Arctic Circle, exploded with color. Green and yellow and white lights flowed through the stars, but that wasn't what captivated the Greenlander tour company guide.
Purple and pink lights painted broad strokes across the sky, a rare color to catch, let alone see as vividly as he had on that night.
"[I've] Been working with Northern Lights [for] such a long time, and to still get surprised like that, it really is special," Varik told AccuWeather. "[It was] impossible to describe unless you experience it yourself. Kind of like love."
A river of pink light flows through the night sky over Tromsø, Norway, on Nov. 2, 2022. (Markus Varik/https://greenlander.no)
The northern lights, or the aurora borealis, occur when energized particles from the sun collide with Earth's upper atmosphere. That's where the planet's magnetic field comes in.
"These particles are deflected towards the poles of Earth by our planet's magnetic field and interact with our atmosphere, depositing energy and causing the atmosphere to fluoresce," astronomer Billy Teets, the director of Dyer Observatory at Vanderbilt University, told Space.com.
But before Varik had gone out to survey the night sky, a crack had formed in Earth's magnetic field, according to SpaceWeather.com, allowing the particles to plunge farther down into the atmosphere and collide with the element that he said turned it purple: nitrogen.
The celestial rivers have inspired divine myths for millennia, and to this day they still hold a spiritual enchantment.
"When the auroras give us a blessing to be able to experience this kind of phenomena, it always goes very spiritual to me," Varik told AccuWeather. "From one side you are dumbfounded and almost in shock, as your mind refuses to accept the amazing sight, which unfolds in front of your very eyes. On the other side, all this joy and gratitude pours inside you and really makes [you] appreciate everything you have in life."
While he has seen purple lights dance across the sky before, the pink and purple combination that night had been the strongest Varik had witnessed in his life.
"The northern lights are always different, never the same," he said. "It’s like us, people, completely unique in our own special ways."
Here are a few that have stood out to Varik over the years:
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