Status: 26/09/2023, 05:27 a.m.
By: Bettina Menzel
The sky over Germany, Austria and Switzerland "burned" on Monday night: a solar storm created colorful northern lights.
Potsdam – If you want to marvel at the Northern Lights, you usually travel far north – to Norway, Sweden, Finland or Alaska. Or have to do an extra lap with the plane. In the night from Sunday (24 September) to Monday (25 September), people in Germany, Austria and Switzerland were also able to marvel at the Northern Lights. The sky glowed green, purple, red and yellow. A rare celestial spectacle that can only be seen once every eleven years so far south with a lot of luck.
Northern lights in Germany, Austria and Switzerland: "The sky has burned"
The origin of the Northern Lights is no longer a mystery these days, but the lights have lost none of their magic. In the spring of this year, people in Germany were even able to observe auroras all the way down to Bavaria. A pinch of luck always plays a role, because the most beautiful auroras cannot be seen when the sky is cloudy. Above all, the view to the north must be unobstructed. Now it was that time again: On the night of Monday (25 September), northern lights could be seen in parts of Saxony-Anhalt, Brandenburg, Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony.
Impressive: Northern lights can be seen in the sky above Schillig in Lower Saxony. © Markus Hibbeler/dpa
Even in Austria, which is even further south, the natural spectacle could be observed. Especially at higher altitudes, the sky reportedly turned colorful. The red lights are particularly rare, weather expert Roger Perret told Austrian medium Heute.at. That the lights can only be seen in winter is apparently a misconception. "September, October, February or March are considered the best months to see the Northern Lights," the expert continues.
Meanwhile, there were also sightings in Switzerland. "The sky in the mountains facing north has sometimes really burned," said meteorologist Perret to the Swiss medium Blick.ch. The Northern Lights could be seen, for example, on Mount Säntis in the northwestern Alps, on the famous Matterhorn and the Pizol, which is almost 3,000 meters high. If you missed the Northern Lights, you could get another chance in the coming nights. However, according to meteorologists, the probability decreases significantly.
This is how auroras are formed: phenomenon in Germany apparently "not entirely unusual"
Northern lights are caused by high-energy solar wind particles that are thrown into space at high speeds by eruptions on the sun's surface and hit the Earth's magnetic field, as the German Weather Service (DWD) explains the phenomenon. Actually, the Earth's magnetic field lines run towards the north and south poles.
"During strong geomagnetic solar storms, the Earth's magnetic field is deformed in such a way that the 'normally' oval-shaped area expands from the pole and thus auroras can also be visible further south of the pole and sometimes up to mid-latitudes," the DWD continues. Simply put, the charged particles then cause air molecules to fluoresce in the Earth's atmosphere.
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According to a spokesman for the Institute of Solar Terrestrial Physics at the German Aerospace Center (DLR), the current increase in sightings of auroras is not entirely unusual. About every eleven years, in a so-called solar cycle, there are phases with weak and strong solar activity. Currently, a maximum is approaching, the next time this is expected in 2025 (bme with dpa).