Rare northern lights seen across Catalonia sky

Geomagnetic storm prompts sightings including most relevant one in Montsec observatory in 150 years

Pink Aurora Borealis seen from Catalonia on May 11, 2024
Pink Aurora Borealis seen from Catalonia on May 11, 2024 / Courtesy of Nacho Gómez Sapé
Catalan News

Catalan News | @catalannews | Barcelona

May 11, 2024 12:00 PM

May 11, 2024 12:29 PM

Catalonia witnessed one of the most intense episode of northern lights sightings on Friday night into Saturday as a result of a major geomagnetic storm that will affect the whole planet this weekend.

Most Catalans have never seen aurora borealis in their country during their whole life, but on Friday they had a chance and they will have another one during the night between Saturday and Sunday.

Mountain areas such as Cerdanya county or the astronomical parks in Prades and Montsec ranges were some of the areas where some reddish lights were seen, but also near the coast, such as in Roses, or in the inland towns of Súria, Torelló or Viladrau, among others – the event was even registered in Sabadell, in the Barcelona metropolitan area, around midnight.

Northern lights in Sabadell, north of Barcelona
Northern lights in Sabadell, north of Barcelona / Albert Segura Lorrio
Northern lights seen from the telescopes park in the Montsec Astronomical Park
Northern lights seen from the telescopes park in the Montsec Astronomical Park / FGC

According to the Montsec observatory director, Salvador J. Ribas, the phenomenon was of G5 strength, the strongest level, and he matched it just with a similar event that happened over 150 years ago, in 1859, the so-called Carrington Event, which led to major damage in telegraph stations around the globe.

The same entity in western Montsec mountains explains that the geomagnetic storm that resulted into the rare sightings happened because of a coronal mass ejection, that is, large expulsions of plasma and magnetic field from the Sun's corona, the outermost part of its atmosphere.

This is believed to have happened between May 8 and 9, and the impact of this coronal mass ejection has been noticed two days later in the Earth.

Northern lights seen in Sabadell, in the Barcelona metropolitan area
Northern lights seen in Sabadell, in the Barcelona metropolitan area / Albert Segura Lorrio

More northern lights expected in Catalonia

The episode is not over – the night between Saturday and Sunday, Catalonia will also witness northern lights, although of lesser intensity.

Also, the Sun released a new high intensity ejection last night, so the consequences of this phenomenon could also be noticed in the Earth in the coming days.