Northern China emerges as prime viewing spot for rare aurora displays following intense geomagnetic storm

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Photo: VCG

13th May 2024 – (Hong Kong) Regions across northern China, from the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to the Heilongjiang Province, have become illustrious destinations for witnessing the awe-inspiring auroras, spurred by the most robust geomagnetic storm in two decades. This celestial phenomenon has drawn an influx of visitors and photography enthusiasts, eager to capture the natural spectacle.

The geomagnetic disturbance, rated a severe kp=9, occurred following a coronal mass ejection from the sun, peaking in the early hours of Saturday. The National Space Weather Monitoring and Early Warning Center, under the China Meteorological Administration, promptly issued a red alert. The forecast anticipated continued moderate to high solar activity, with potential for further significant solar flares and geomagnetic disruptions over the following days.

Particularly notable were the scenes in Altay, Xinjiang, and Mohe, Heilongjiang, alongside North China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, which became hotspots for those chasing the northern lights. Altay even adjusted its urban lighting to enhance visibility of the auroras, dimming city lights from midnight Saturday to early Sunday morning.

The local response included tailored services to accommodate the influx of tourists. In Altay, discounts at observation lodges and inns were offered, making the aurora viewing experience both accessible and inviting.

Xinjiang’s unique geographical and climatic conditions are credited for the vividness of the auroras observed there. The region’s dry climate, high atmospheric transparency, and distinctive magnetic field facilitate intense interactions between charged particles and atmospheric gases, leading to more pronounced auroral activity.

The phenomenon also reached as far as Beijing, where a university student reported travelling to Miyun district to experience the auroras first-hand, a testament to the wide reach of this geomagnetic event.