Photographer Captures Rare SAR Arc, A Patch of Red Light in the Sky

A SARs arc above Canada
An elusive SAR arc above Fergus, Canada on the night of November 5.

A photographer captured a rare Stable Auroral Red (SAR) during a night of geomagnetic activity above the Canadian skies.

Raghuvamsh Chavali was chasing the northern lights on the evening of November 5 around the area of Fergus, Ontario; but there was just one problem — it was cloudy.

“I made multiple attempts to capture the elusive lights, testing my luck against the whims of nature. However, my efforts seemed thwarted as the clouds persisted,” Chavali tells PetaPixel.

“As the night progressed, around 23:45 to 00:15, a twist of fate awaited me. Miraculously, a break in the clouds revealed a patch of clear sky adorned with stars, including the dazzling Venus.”

SAR arc
The SAR arc.

“To my astonishment, what unfolded before me transcended my expectations. Instead of the anticipated celestial display, a mesmerizing reddish-magenta patch manifested itself against the night canvas,” he continues.

“Intrigued and captivated, I realized I was witnessing something extraordinary—something beyond the conventional northern lights imagery.”

Chavali quickly set his Sony a7 III to a 30-second exposure with the ISO at 4000 and the aperture at f/4.5.

“I managed to immortalize this rare celestial occurrence through approximately 10 photographs,” the photographer says.

“Subsequently, my curiosity led me to discover that what I had witnessed was none other than the elusive SAR Arc, a phenomenon rarely associated with the northern lights.”

What is a SAR arc?

Although SAR arcs look a lot like aurora lights, they are not. Chavali explains that SARs are a signal that heat energy is slipping into the upper atmosphere from Earth’s ring current system.

The Washington Post notes that a SAR is a brand of broad, diffuse red light that remains stationary and mostly colorless during geomagnetic activity.

SAR arcs were only discovered in 1956 precisely because they are rarely visible and scientists are not precisely sure what causes them but it is thought to be to do with Earth’s ring current.

Last April, PetaPixel reported on a photographer who captured a rare and mysterious phenomenon called ELVE which appears as a massive red ring of light in the sky and is generated from thunderstorm clouds.

More of Chavali’s work can be found on his Instagram, website, and Facebook.

Image credits: Photographs by Raghuvamsh Chavali