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In the second week of May, a spectacular natural event involved practically the entire world, with greater interest in the northern hemisphere – Europe and North America. It was a series of magnetic storms generated by the sun, which also manifested themselves through the alteration of the intensity of its rays, thus forming pink and fuchsia halos that coloured the sky even during the night. This phenomenon was mistakenly defined as the “aurora borealis” because it created the same effect as the famous “northern lights”. But it wasn’t an aurora. And it wasn’t Northern, given that the pink colour could also be admired from Australia and Chile!

A Colorful Storm

As the website of the Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology of Catania explains well, these “lights” were caused by “a series of important expulsions of energetic solar particles (CME – Coronal Mass Ejection) in the direction of the Earth, which reached our planet starting on the evening of May 10th, thus generating an intense geomagnetic storm.”

The night hours of 11, 12 and 13 May were coloured pink, much more intense and evident in the nations of northern Europe and North America and in the extreme south of the world, a little less visible -instead- from southern Europe, Africa and Central America. Many spent these nights outside, in isolated areas to have the least amount of light disturbance when taking photos and videos. But few were able to hear the “singing” that this “aurora” produced.

On Mount Etna the Aurora did Sing

On Etna, however, this unusual sound was recorded. An absolute surprise also for the volcanologists who constantly monitor the instruments and who found the “song” of the pink aurora in their hands (or rather, in their ears!).

Mount Etna is one of the most monitored volcanoes in the world and its enormous surface is dotted with instruments that must record, minute by minute, gases, tremors and vibrations. These instruments can also record any type of “disturbance” in the air. And thanks to this acute perception system it was possible to record “a set of fluctuations in the Earth’s magnetic field (geomagnetic pulsations), which were not caused by the activity of the volcano” but which came precisely from the alterations due to the solar storm.

By translating those frequencies into audio signals, the “music” came out that you can all hear by clicking HERE: the song of the Aurora!

A Magic Night

Beyond the sound signal of this exceptional event, the pink solar light show also produced a large number of photos and videos. To admire them, just search on Google for the words “Aurora Borealis Etna” and you will find truly magical images!

For many people, those lights were truly “a magic”. There were those who spoke of spells, of alien warnings, of messages from God… . But those who love nature for what it is, and know what magnificent gifts it can give us, it was just a lucky and blissful moment, in the presence of of a physical event that has no equal.

Will the magical night of the dawn on Etna be repeated? Possibly yes. In fact, it seems that at the end of May the solar storms will return to visit us and perhaps this time it will be easier to see them even from the Mediterranean. And who knows, maybe on Etna  the new “song” will vibrate even stronger? Don’t miss the opportunity to experience this emotion with a night excursion to the volcano. In the company of an expert guide, of course! (photo by G Musumeci)

Autore: Grazia Musumeci

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