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News Astronomy

Dark Skies and Northern Lights

A brilliant pink aurora sparkles in the night sky over Moab, Utah, on the night of 22 June 2015. Photo by Jonathan Babb.

Jonathan Babb, a high school biology teacher from Tucson, Arizona, recently sent us this photo looking for a some help in explaining the strange “pink hue” in night sky images he took during a recent visit to Moab, Utah. It turns out that Jonathan saw a rare display of the aurora borealis (aka the “northern lights”), a phenomenon usually seen only at high latitudes. Recent solar activity caused the lights to be seen even further south near the U.S-Mexico border.

To see the aurora under such conditions, when it is faint and low on the northern horizon, requires very dark night skies. Jonathan found them on the Colorado Plateau, far from the light pollution of big cities.