Were northern lights seen in Ladakh as claimed in social media?
Reports suggest Stable Auroral Red (SAR) may have been observed in Ladakh but the images used in the tweets are either false or fake.
A few days back, Ladakh’s skies were illuminated by the Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights. A rare event!
Northern lights in Ladakh. Several social media posts claim that the northern lights, or the Aurora Borealis, was seen in Ladakh during the month of April. The posts share almost similar pictures claiming that they were taken in Ladakh when the spectacle took place. Some of these claims can be seen here, here, here and here.
What’s the truth?
From the viral posts, we reverse image searched to find their origins. Almost all of these are stock images from sites like iStock photo and Alamy which were taken in countries closer to northern pole i.e in Norway and Iceland. None of these photos are taken in April 2023 as suggested in social media posts and they were not taken in Ladakh as well. Some of the photos used had a watermark in them suggesting that they are stock images.
Tweet Link | Archive 1 | Archive 2
Harsh Goenka’s tweet contained four images which were from Alamy and iStock Photo & the links to them are here, here, here and here.
What was seen in Ladakh?
In Ladakh, there was some auroral lights seen on 22nd and 23rd night of April 2023, according to the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bengaluru. But these are not the northern lights, that are typically seen over regions closer to the north pole such as Norway, Alaska and Iceland. It is suggested that it could be SAR. The rare phenomenon is known as Stable Auroral Red (SAR) that was caused by a coronal mass ejection (CME).
#Aurora from #Ladakh!
This is a time-lapse of the sky taken by a 360 deg camera at from #Hanle on 22/23 April night. You can see the aurora lights due to an intense geomagnetic storm that hit the Earth. It is extremely rare to see aurora at such a low latitude! @dstindia (1/n) pic.twitter.com/gGbrw86vsb
— IIAstrophysics (@IIABengaluru) April 29, 2023
Stable Auroral Red (SAR):
SAR is a rare type of aurora that can be caused by charged particles from the Sun colliding with oxygen atoms in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. These charged particles are emitted due to a coronal mass ejection, a massive burst of charged particles and magnetic fields that are ejected from the outermost layer of the Sun’s atmosphere, known as the corona.
How SAR is different from northern lights?
The SAR is usually red in colour as the solar emissions due to CME react with oxygen atoms which tend to turn to red shade, whereas northern lights vary in different shades of blue to green according to the gases in the atmosphere. The northern lights tend to change patterns when it appears which usually happen in minutes, whereas SAR is quite monochromatic and is relatively static for longer durations. SAR is quite rare compared to Northern lights which are quite frequent.
In our search, we found that although there was some rare significant astronomical event over the skies of Ladakh, it is not the northern lights as claimed in many social media posts and the photos shared by many users in social media are not taken from Ladakh either.