‘This sun isn’t normal’: Extreme UV radiation is broiling Bolivia’s highlands

Photographer Jose Peralta captures skies over Bolivia’s highlands filled with brown earth and glowing red, discoloured clouds

“This sun isn’t normal”: Extreme UV radiation is broiling Bolivia’s highlands

Photographer Jose Peralta, a seaman from La Paz, Bolivian capital, couldn’t help but look up at the sky in disbelief.

At first he couldn’t see anything out of the clouds. Later he saw a bright red glow around them, forming a thin circle.

“I felt sick to my stomach,” he said. “I walked slowly back to the office for some siestas. The lights of the boat were lit up.”

SalaMia, Central University of Argentina (4)

Peralta was leading a tour on Bolivian Lake Chapala on the border with Argentina and Peru when the unusual light emerged. In the city of La Paz, at midnight, the sky was bathed in white light, making many believers that the sun was at a new solar maximum.

Green, purple and red clouds produced by extreme UV radiation Photograph: Courtesy Jose Peralta/SalaMia

“We didn’t know it was human vanity,” said the academic who designed the exhibit for SalaMia, an Argentine university. “We were just so relaxed by the perfect pictures.”

The liquid paint in the sky is composed of tiny droplets of water that have dried since being exposed to the Sun. This intense sunlight causes the water droplets to open and merge with the blue and red air that is artificially scoured with a fine film of silver iodide, a dry liquid additive.

Although the phenomenon is not a solar eclipse, it can still be seen from northern South America.

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