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Finnish stargazers discover completely new Northern Lights phenomenon

Conventional auroras are caused by electrons in the solar wind, but the newly discovered phenomenon stems from protons, which are much heavier.

Northern lights, red arc with green haze in the sky of Ikaalinen.
The photo taken by Heidi Rikala revealed to researchers and hobbyists a new kind of auroral phenomenon. Image: Heidi Rikala
Yle News

The astronomical society Ursa has awarded Finnish stargazers for discovering a completely new phenomenon of aurora borealis, or the Northern Lights.

The society awarded the Stella Arcti prize to Heidi Rikala from Ikaalinen and Eero Karvinen from Nurmes, as well as past winners Emma Bruus from Nurmijärvi and Lauri Kangas from Espoo.

According to a press release from Ursa, the group discovered a new phenomenon where a red arc appears in the sky in connection with bright Northern Lights.

Initially, enthusiasts assumed that it was a phenomenon known for more than 50 years, the stable auroral red (SAR) arc.

However, subsequent studies revealed that, unlike SAR arcs, the red arc and the greenish-white formations described by the enthusiasts were caused by a stream of solar particles, the solar wind.

Ursa said in its press release that conventional auroras are created by electrons in the solar wind, but the recently discovered aurora is caused by protons — which are much heavier particles.

The newly discovered phenomenon was named the Red Arc with Green Diffuse Aurora (RAGDA) after its appearance.

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