Auroras can be stunningly beautiful as they ripple across the sky in all of their colorful glory. These natural light shows are one of the most majestic phenomena that can be seen at high latitudes on Earth (and they happen elsewhere as well, such as on Jupiter and Saturn). Auroras tend to occur on Earth at times when the sun is active, when solar magnetic fields twist around and “burst,” send out charged particles deep into space. The particles that hit Earth’s atmosphere can create auroral displays. The display shown in the photo above – captured by Jingyi Zhang and Wang Zheng over Iceland in February 2019 – happened to have the shape of a dragon.
The dragon shape, of course, was only temporary in the aurora’s shifting curtains of light. It’s an example of pareidolia, that is, seeing recognizable objects or patterns in otherwise random or unrelated objects. Click here to see more examples of pareidolia.
What a sight! Thank you, Jingyi Zhang and Wang Zheng.
By the way, the same auroral display resulted in another photo that resembled a rising phoenix.
Bottom line: Seeing dragons and phoenixes in auroras are an example of pareidolia, stemming from our human tendency to seek patterns in random information.
Paul Scott Anderson has had a passion for space exploration that began when he was a child when he watched Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. While in school he was known for his passion for space exploration and astronomy. He started his blog The Meridiani Journal in 2005, which was a chronicle of planetary exploration. In 2015, the blog was renamed as Planetaria. While interested in all aspects of space exploration, his primary passion is planetary science. In 2011, he started writing about space on a freelance basis, and now currently writes for AmericaSpace and Futurism (part of Vocal). He has also written for Universe Today and SpaceFlight Insider, and has also been published in The Mars Quarterly and has done supplementary writing for the well-known iOS app Exoplanet for iPhone and iPad.