"I met a cute new friend while observing a beautiful display," says Nakamura. "Overhead, widespread red auroras surrounded the Magellanic clouds. The red-rimmed Milky Way was beautiful as well."
Red auroras are not fully understood. They occur some 300 to 500 km above Earth's surface, much higher than ordinary green auroras. Some researchers believe the red lights are linked to low energy electrons from the sun, which move too slowly to penetrate deeply into the atmosphere. When such electrons recombine with oxygen ions in the upper atmosphere, red photons are emitted. At present, space weather forecasters cannot predict when this will occur. They are as unexpected as ... a sea lion in a geomagnetic storm.