A passenger plane made a 360 fly-by mid flight so that travelers could see the aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights, on their journey.
Pictures taken from flight EZY1806 from Reykjavik in Iceland to Manchester in England on Monday show the moment passengers were wowed with the dancing lights.
Shared on Twitter by Adam Groves, who was on the flight with his fiancée after their trip to the Icelandic capital, the pictures have been viewed more than 391,000 times.
A natural light phenomenon, auroras are shimmering lights in the sky that are often seen in high-latitude regions close to Earth’s magnetic poles in places like Scandinavia and Alaska.
Auroras that occur near the north pole are referred to as the northern lights or by the scientific term aurora borealis, while the scientific name for the same phenomenon in the southern hemisphere is the aurora australis.
Groves told Newsweek that the sighting was “an incredible ending to a special trip where I proposed to my now fiancée.”
Auroras, also known as polar lights, have been seen slightly further south than usual for the last few nights, with residents of southern England reporting sightings.
The U.K.’s Met Office said in a Twitter post on February 26: “A coronal hole high-speed stream arrived this evening combined with a rather fast coronal mass ejection leading to aurora sightings across the UK.”
“We were sat on the right isle of the plane and the lights were out of the left window,” Groves explained. “After two to three minutes of everyone on the left snapping away, the pilot said he’d be doing an unplanned 360 mid-flight so everyone on the right can also see the impressive lights.”
A spokesperson for airline easyJet told Newsweek: “We are pleased that the captain on our flight from Reykjavik to Manchester yesterday evening was able to perform a controlled maneuver in order to allow passengers to witness an amazing display from the air of one of nature’s greatest sights, the aurora borealis. Our crew will always go above and beyond for our customers and we’re delighted to have been able to share this special view of the northern lights with them.”
Auroras occur naturally in the sky when the sun launches charged particles toward the Earth through space. As they reach Earth’s atmosphere, the planet’s magnetic field guides them toward the poles where they interact with atoms.
The famed dancing colors are created by a mixture of gases in the atmosphere, green created by oxygen and purples, pinks and blues by nitrogen.
“We were half expecting them as the aurora forecast was high, but low cloud cover in Iceland over the past week meant we didn’t see them from land so it was a nice surprise to see them from the air,” said Groves. “The pilot switched off all the lights for a good 30 minutes.”
For those hoping to catch a glimpse of the aurora for themselves, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Space Weather Prediction Center has an aurora dashboard that tells people when and where to look for northern and southern lights.
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