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Image taken on Friday night in Archidona, slightly edited to highlight the pinkish tones. Adrián Valencia
In pictures: 'Extreme' solar storm leaves spectacular red and pink skies in Spain, including Malaga
Nature

In pictures: 'Extreme' solar storm leaves spectacular red and pink skies in Spain, including Malaga

The aurora borealis could be seen over much of Spain, making for some stunning photographs

Isabel Méndez / V. Riesgo

Malaga

Monday, 13 May 2024, 12:59

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US authorities predicted the arrival of a major solar storm on Earth, and we weren't disappointed. Early on Saturday 11 May, the aurora borealis (northern lights) could be seen in Spain. They could be sighted from Andalucía to Catalonia, Aragon, Galicia and Valencia.

As always in such cases, warnings were issued about possible disruptions to the power grid and satellite communications. But no major failures were recorded. Unusual and spectacular polar auroras generated impressive images, with many taken from Malaga province.

In Spain, national weather agency Aemet confirmed the presence of this phenomenon due to "very intense" solar activity. "Coronal mass ejections or atmospheric solar flares can intensify the solar wind and reach the Earth's magnetosphere, triggering a geomagnetic storm," they pointed out. During these events, the auroral oval temporarily widens and this allows auroras to be seen from lower latitudes.

The phenomenon, seen in Benalmádena
The phenomenon, seen in Benalmádena Joaquín Manzano

According to eltiempo.es, a geomagnetic solar storm of this "extreme" magnitude has not been experienced since 2003. For example, from the Madrid region, the pink sky could be seen from the mountains, as light pollution is less intense. In addition, from Segovia and Salamanca, in Castilla y León, very obvious aurora borealis could also be seen.

In the case of Mallorca, the auroras have acquired a reddish hue, while in Andalucía they have been best observed in Almería or Cádiz. The Calar Alto Astronomical Observatory in Almería confirmed the phenomenon. "Once again we are honoured with the presence of an aurora borealis at Calar Alto," it wrote on X.

The new storm, which is expected to last through the weekend, comes at a time when the sun is approaching the peak of an 11-year cycle of intensified activity. "We've alerted all of our infrastructure operators that we usually coordinate with, like satellite operators, communication operators ... and of course, the power grid in North America," space weather specialist Shawn Dahl said.

Magnetic fields associated with geomagnetic storms induce currents in long conductors, including power cables, which can cause power outages. Authorities advised the public to maintain regular measures against possible power outages, such as having torches, batteries and weather radios on hand.

The largest solar storm on record is the "Carrington event" of 1859: it destroyed the telegraph network in the United States, triggered electrical discharges and the aurora borealis was visible at unprecedented latitudes as far away as central America.

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