Airglow Over Dark Sky Park Poloniny

March 25, 2022


Photographer: Tomas Slovinsky

Summary Authors: Tomas Slovinsky; Cadan Cummings

During my trip to the darkest place in Slovakia, Dark Sky Park Poloniny, I witnessed the most vibrant airglow I have ever observed. Airglow occurs when either ultraviolet light from the Sun excites electrons of upper atmosphere gases or the molecules are ionized and later recombine to produce a free electron. This phenomenon is the reason why the night sky is continuously blanked in a faint light. Although present throughout the year and around the world, airglow is best visible in dark locations where light pollution is minimal.  

At the beginning of the night, the sky was completely dark. However, right before the end of the astronomical night, the brightness of the sky dramatically increased to the point that it even lit the foreground. I had one guess about what was happening, but I wanted to be sure and took this picture. When I pointed the camera towards the sky, I was truly excited about the nice colors and structures. Coincidentally, there is an airglow-monitoring program at the Kolonica Observatory called AMON-ES (Airglow MONitoring - Extended Station). It's clear that under the dark night sky, the real gems are revealed.

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