Aurora in Wisconsin

Between May 10 – 14, 2024 a series of powerful solar storms led to the production of visible aurorae far further towards the equator than normal. This photo was taken by CIERA graduate student Imran Sultan, amateur astrophotographer and member of Professor Claude-André Faucher-Giguère‘s research group.

Sultan took this photo from dark skies in Wisconsin on May 11. After driving hours into the early Saturday morning, he saw aurora stretching across nearly the entire night sky.

Aurorae are caused by energized particles generated by solar wind interacting with Earth’s magnetic field. The color of the auroral emission corresponds to the elements involved, which depend on atmospheric altitude. Red and purple emission is visible from higher altitudes (>300km), and involve interactions with less concentrated oxygen molecules. Yellow/green aurorae are characteristic of interactions with more concentrated oxygen at lower altitudes (100-300km).

Credit: Imran Sultan/Northwestern/CIERA

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