NIGHT LIFE IN ANTARCTICA: You’d think extreme cold in the dead of winter would keep Antarctic researchers inside. The staff of the Bharati Indian Base Station in Antarctica’s Larsemann hills are an exception: “We can’t stay inside,” reports B. Sudarsan Patro. “The night life is just too amazing!”
Patro took this group self portrait on June 30th during a brilliant outburst of auroras. “They were so bright,” he says, “the snow turned green. The sparkling display reminded us of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights.” Spiritually, Diwali signifies the victory of light over darkness–very appropriate for a midwinter display of aurora australis.
This display shows that bright auroras can occur even when solar activity is very low. There were no sunspots, no solar flares, and no CMEs on June 30th, yet skies turned green anyway. Probably what happened is this: Earth passed through a region of space filled with negative-polarity magnetic fields (known to researchers as “negative B sub z”). Such fields can open a crack in Earth’s magnetosphere. Solar wind pours in and sparks bright auroras–no sunspots required.