auroras
© Taken by Matthew Steinberg on February 18, 2020 @ Reine, Lofoten Islands Norway
After snow, sleet, and heavy wind all day, the clouds parted for a 2 hour display of spectacular pale green, blue, and purple auroras over the mountains of Reine.
Yes, there really are cracks in Earth's magnetic field. One of them opened on Feb. 18th, sparking some of the strangest auroras in years. First, the night sky turned blue over the Lofoten Islands of Norway:

"After snow, sleet, and heavy wind all day, the clouds parted for a 2 hour display of spectacular pale green, blue, and purple auroras over the mountains of Reine," says photographer Matthew Steinberg.

Blue auroras are rare. Auroras are usually green, and sometimes red. Those are the colors produced by oxygen when it is excited by electrons raining down from space. Blue is a sign of nitrogen. Energetic particles striking ionized molecular nitrogen (N2+) at very high altitudes (> 400 km) produces a cold azure glow of the type captured in Steinberg's photo. Usually the blue is faint, but on Feb. 18th it was strangely intense.

blue aurora
© Taken by Matthew Steinberg on February 18, 2020 @ Reine, Lofoten Islands Norway
Next, the auroras turned green again. But they were strangely shaped. This was the view from Tromsø, Norway:

"I couldn't believe my eyes," says photographer Markus Varik, a longtime aurora tour guide who previously thought he had seen it all. "This strange rippling band formation unfolded overhead. It was so different than the usual aurora arcs. Truly magic! Let's hope for some more strange shapes tomorrow!"

Indeed, it could happen. A G1-class geomagnetic storm is underway, and more Arctic auroras are in the offing.

Stay tuned. Aurora alerts: SMS Text.