With Northern Lights on Full Blast, Pilot Circles Plane to Give Passengers a View

Who says air travel can't be beautiful?

Eric Mack Contributing Editor
Eric Mack has been a CNET contributor since 2011. Eric and his family live 100% energy and water independent on his off-grid compound in the New Mexico desert. Eric uses his passion for writing about energy, renewables, science and climate to bring educational content to life on topics around the solar panel and deregulated energy industries. Eric helps consumers by demystifying solar, battery, renewable energy, energy choice concepts, and also reviews solar installers. Previously, Eric covered space, science, climate change and all things futuristic. His encrypted email for tips is ericcmack@protonmail.com.
Expertise Solar, solar storage, space, science, climate change, deregulated energy, DIY solar panels, DIY off-grid life projects. CNET's "Living off the Grid" series. https://www.cnet.com/feature/home/energy-and-utilities/living-off-the-grid/ Credentials
  • Finalist for the Nesta Tipping Point prize and a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Eric Mack
2 min read
Aurora borealis as seen from Iceland

Aurora borealis as seen from Iceland on Feb. 27, captured by photographer Peter Forister.

SpaceWeatherGallery.com/Peter Forister

Monday night might go down as one of the most photographed evenings from midair. A strong geomagnetic storm in progress triggered an intense show of the bright and colorful aurora borealis that appeared especially brilliant when viewed midflight from the stratosphere. 

To ensure everyone aboard an Easyjet flight from Iceland to Manchester, England, had a glimpse of those dancing northern lights, the pilot took a slight detour, flying the plane in a 360-degree loop.

A number of passengers posted the stunning results to social media. 

Passenger Adam Groves, in particular, was delighted with the maneuver. 

"An amazing way to top off a special trip where I proposed to my fiancé," he wrote on Twitter. 

EasyJet didn't immediately respond to a request for confirmation and comment, but the air carrier did retweet Groves' photos.

Pilots of other flights reportedly performed similar turns to give everyone a view of the charged plasma from the sun colliding with Earth's magnetic field.

Other flight passengers in the region also caught the lights in full effect.

A NASA astronaut on Tuesday also shared an "absolutely unreal" view of the show from the International Space Station.

The auroral display is the result of Earth-directed coronal mass ejections from the sun over the weekend. The vivid exhibition was one of the best yet of the current solar cycle, which is building toward a peak in intensity some time in the middle of the decade. This means that more opportunities surely await to see the high-flying lights, especially at higher latitudes.