In his 10 years helping travelers discover the Northern Lights, guide Markus Varik had never seen anything quite like it. In early November, the sky in Tromsø, Norway, was illuminated with vibrant pink streaks. While Varik had seen pink auroras previously, they'd never been this strong. And Varik certainly knows his auroras, as he works as an aurora guide for Greenlander, a company in Tromsø that helps visitors experience the Northern lights.
Varik's photos of that evening show the intense color that fills the sky. While there are some traces of green, the majority of the night sky is filled with pink. This is because a strong solar storm on November caused a temporary crack in the Earth's magnetic field. This allowed solar wind to penetrate further than normal into the Earth's atmosphere. The green color we are used to seeing occurs when these solar winds stay at a higher altitude where oxygen atoms are abundant. These atoms, when heated by the solar wind, turn green.
But on this evening, the winds passed so low in the atmosphere that they reached a place where nitrogen is the primary element. And when nitrogen atoms are excited, they emit a neon-pink glow. The moment left a lasting impression on Varik, who estimates that he's led over 1,300 tours to the area in the past decade.
“It’s super rare, almost never happens,” he tells My Modern Met. “This pink or purple, is by far my favorite color since you can perceive it pretty much the same with the naked eye, too. This was the strongest sight of pink I have ever witnessed in my whole life.”
It was a special evening for both Varik and his group, and is one that makes him remember to be grateful.
“When the Auroras give us a blessing to be able to experience this kind of phenomenon,” he says, “it always goes very spiritual to me. 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.”