Brilliant “auroral pearls” appear strung across the night sky. This is what creates them.

Spacecraft studying Earth’s magnetosphere have collectively observed how solar particles reach the upper atmosphere and create bright auroral beads in the night sky. (Image credit: ESA/ATG medialab)

A cohort of telescopes has captured a special kind of aurora strung across the night sky like a shining jeweled necklace, helping astronomers better understand the mechanics behind these magnificent light shows.

Known as auroral beads, these round beads auroras appear in scattered groups across the sky, while more traditional auroras appear flatter and more elongated. A group of 13 spacecraft, including the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Cluster mission, observed the process that triggers auroral beads on the dayside of Earth, or facing the sun, offering new clues as to how these unique auroras are forming.

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