Just when you think you know everything about a natural phenomenon, nature will find another way to surprise you. Such is the case with a new aurora discovered by Physicist under the direction of the University of Iowa.
The aurora was discovered in a video almost two decades old. The researchers identified A section of the diffuse aurora – the faint, background-like glow that accompanies the more vivid light commonly associated with aurors – that goes dark and then suddenly reappears.
The researchers decided to call this new type of aurora “diffuse erasers”.
“The biggest thing about these erasers that we didn’t know about before, but now we know, is that they exist,” says Allison Jaynes, assistant professor at the Institute of Physics and Astronomy in Iowa and co-author of the degree. “It begs the question: are these a common phenomenon that has been overlooked, or are they rare?
“Knowing that they exist means that there is a process that creates them,” Jaynes continued.
Aurors occur when charged particles flowing from the sun come in contact with the Earth’s magnetic bubble, escape and fall onto our planet. It is the energy released during their interactions with gases in the Earth’s atmosphere such as oxygen, nitrogen, and other molecules that create the beautiful lights so often associated with aurors.
In this case, the phenomenon is not new (it was videotaped over 20 years ago), but it has been rediscovered. It wasn’t until last August that the International Space Station captured an aurora that encountered an air glow, which turned out to be a breathtaking image.
In recent news, researchers at Helsinki University found that another new auroral phenomenon called dunes, discovered by Finnish researchers a year ago, is likely caused by areas of increased oxygen atom density in an atmospheric wave channel. The researchers found that dunes are extremely rare. This begs the question: what other types of aurors can we discover if we insist on looking closely enough?
The diffuse eraser study was published in the Journal of geophysical research, space physics.