Göran Strand posted this (processed) photo to EarthSky Facebook this week, taken during the September 10, 2018 G2-class geomagnetic storm that sparked magnificent auroras over Earth’s northern latitudes. It’s an example of pareidolia, or seeing patterns in nature where, in reality, none exist. Goran wrote:
We had a truly amazing northern light here in northern Sweden. I did a 180 degree panorama of the sky to capture the entire band stretching through zenith. While editing, I tried some different options to present the photo and suddenly when I mirrored the photo and put them side by side, I did see both something familiar but also something out of this world.
When mirrored, the clouds and the northern lights at the top formed a face that looks like an alien, and at the bottom a storm trooper is clearly visible.
NOAA forecasters had predicted the geomagnetic event that began during the night of September 10, when a solar wind stream – a stream of charged particles from the sun – hit Earth’s magnetic field. Sign up for NOAA’s space weather alerts here.
Bottom line: Alien? Storm trooper? Nah. An aurora photo showing examples of pareidolia.
Deborah Byrd created the EarthSky radio series in 1991 and founded EarthSky.org in 1994. Today, she serves as Editor-in-Chief of this website. She has won a galaxy of awards from the broadcasting and science communities, including having an asteroid named 3505 Byrd in her honor. A science communicator and educator since 1976, Byrd believes in science as a force for good in the world and a vital tool for the 21st century. "Being an EarthSky editor is like hosting a big global party for cool nature-lovers," she says.