41,000 years ago, auroras blazed near the equator

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If you want to be dazzled by a spectacular northern lights display, your best bet is to skywatch near the North Pole. But that wasn’t the case 41,000 years ago, when a disruption of Earth’s magnetic field sent auroras wandering toward the equator.

During this geomagnetic disturbance, known as the Laschamp event or the Laschamp excursion, the planet’s magnetic north and south weakened, and the magnetic field tilted on its axis and diminished to a fraction of its former strength. This lessened the magnetic pull that normally directs the flow of high-energy solar particles toward the north and south poles, where they interact with atmospheric gases to illuminate night skies as the northern and southern lights.

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