PHOTOS: Northern Lights turn French skies pink and purple

The spectacle was seen in several areas - and not just in the north

The northern lights could be seen in several regions of France this weekend
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The Northern Lights lit up several regions of France yesterday (November 5) evening, turning the skies shades of pink, purple and red.

The Aurora Borealis could be seen in Pas-de-Calais, the Alps, Auvergne, Alsace, but also on the French Riviera; many people shared their photos on social networks.

This light spectacle is generally only seen in more extreme latitudes, usually visible near the North and South Poles – the Southern lights being called the Aurora Australis.

To have any hope of seeing the Northern Lights, it is recommended to look at the sky in a northerly direction.

Caused by solar wind

The phenomenon was caused by a wave of solar particles that created a "geomagnetic storm", said scientific mediator Pierre Henriquet on social media platform X (previously Twitter).

The Aurora Borealis appears when streams of hot, charged particles, known as ‘solar wind’ reach Earth's environment.

The particles meet gases in our atmosphere and depending where they are, different amounts of energy are released as different wavelengths of light – oxygen produces green light, while nitrogen causes the sky to glow red.

The colours in France are warmer because of the country’s lower altitude.

A rare sight in France

In lower altitudes, such as in France, the Aurora Borealis are rare and usually can only be seen every ten or 20 years with the right conditions.

However, France had already seen the northern lights twice already this year, in February and in August.

This means there is still a chance to see them again in 2023, however at the moment there is no information on when this may be.

The lights were also observed in a number of other European countries including the Ukraine, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and the United Kingdom where magnificent colours were seen above Stonehenge.

The history of Aurora Borealis

It was the Italian astronomer Galielo Galiliei who chose the name Aurora Borealis in 1619, after the roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek god of the north wind, Boreas.

However, the earliest record of the Northern Lights is believed to be earlier than this.

In southwestern France, prehistoric Cro-Magnon cave paintings were discovered and among these was what may be the earliest depiction of the Aurora.

An old and simple form of art created by clay finger tracing, it is believed to be 30,000-years-old.

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