Jaw-dropping photos show fiery skies over Antarctica caused by aftereffects of Tongan volcanic eruption

ANTARCTICA — If you enjoy photographs that show off some of the naturally-occurring beauty seen on our planet, you’re in for a treat. Researchers in Antarctica are sharing jaw-dropping photos that reveal the fiery skies caused by the aftereffects of a Tongan volcanic eruption.

Stuart Shaw, an Antarctica New Zealand science technician, captured the breathtaking images of the skies above Scott Base, where he is stationed. Between December and January, the Tongan Hunga Tonga–Hunga Ha’apai volcano erupted, causing explosions that could be heard up to 170 kilometres (110 mi) away. The UK Met Office even detected shockwaves from the eruption.

According to New Zealand’s NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research), the mesmerizing effect is thought to be caused by a resulting abundance of aerosols in the stratosphere 15-24 kilometers above Antarctica.

“Stratospheric aerosols can circulate the globe for months after a volcanic eruption, scattering and bending light as the sun dips or rises below the horizon, creating a glow in the sky with hues of pink, blue, purple, and violet,” explains NIWA forecaster Nava Fedaeff in a statement per South West News Service.

Antarctic skies above Scott Base after the Tongan Hunga Tonga–Hunga Ha'apai volcano eruption.
(Photo courtesy: Stuart Shaw / SWNS)

“Remnants of the Tongan volcanic dust cloud in the upper stratosphere are the likely cause of the stunning colors seen here at Scott Base, Antarctica,” explains Stuart, who dubbed the pictures he posted on Instagram on July 7th “Turkish Delight.”

“A title like ‘Turkish Delight’ doesn’t really sound apt for a remote Antarctic station in minus thirty degrees Celsius, but this was the color of the sky and partial moon at midday on Ross Island where Scott Base (NZ) & McMurdo Station (USA) are both located,” he adds. “The slight ‘nautical twilight’ we normally get around midday at this time of the year usually means we can just make out the horizon if we’re lucky but we were presented with quite a show which had most of the station personnel grabbing jackets and running outside with their cameras for a look at the awesome colors.”

Antarctic skies above Scott Base after the Tongan Hunga Tonga–Hunga Ha'apai volcano eruption.
(Photo courtesy: Stuart Shaw / SWNS)
Stuart Shaw, Scott Base in Antarctica
Stuart Shaw outside Scott Base in Antarctica. (Photo courtesy: Stuart Shaw / SWNS)

Report by South West News Service writer Dean Murray

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