Artificial global aurora claims about HAARP not so bright

What was Claimed

The recent Aurora Australis and Borealis displays were produced by the HAARP facility in Alaska.

Our Verdict

False. The auroral displays were created by a geomagnetic storm. The HAARP facility is not powerful enough to create such displays.

Social media is awash with claims the recent Aurora Australis and Borealis displays seen across the globe were artificially produced by the Alaska-based HAARP research facility. 

The claims are false. Scientists say the luminous weather phenomenon was created by a confirmed geomagnetic storm and that the High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program (commonly referred to as HAARP) is not capable of generating global auroral displays. 

A Facebook post connecting the May 2024 aurora australis with HAARP.
Many posts like this one falsely linked the visuals to an experiment at a research facility.

A level G4 geomagnetic storm was forecast by the US National Weather Service after four solar bursts were recorded prior to the May 11 spectacles in the sky. The auroras were visible in Europe, US, Asia, Africa and Australia.

In reaction to the widely shared event, a series of social media posts claimed the aurora activity was linked to a scheduled HAARP testing period running from May 8 to 10. 

“If you think that HAARP had nothing to do with the northern lights, you probably still believe jabs are safe and effective,” one Instagram post reads.

A Facebook user asks: “Did y’all enjoy the fabricated light show?” with attached photos of aurora-lit skies and a screenshot detailing the planned HAARP experiment.

HAARP’s main feature is a high-frequency transmitter used to study the ionosphere, which is the region of the earth’s atmosphere between roughly 80 and 650 kilometres above the surface, according to NASA.

Previously operated by the military, the facility is commonly associated with debunked conspiracy theories claiming it can create natural disasters and control minds.

HAARP has stated that its research experiments have the potential to create artificial airglows, which experts tell AAP FactCheck are significantly smaller than auroral events. 

Professor Andrew Cole, head of physics at the University of Tasmania, says HAARP creates a glow by directing a “few million” watts of power up into the ionosphere.

The High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program website
The HAARP website published an FAQ page on the claims.

This creates only a small glow displayed over a limited area, while Prof Cole says the amount of energy needed for an auroral particle is thousands of times higher, into “the tens of billions of watts”.

“No one in Europe or Australia could see HAARP airglow,” he says. 

Prof Cole also says the violet colour usually generated by an aurora could not possibly be the result of an airglow as they require auroral energies.

In a statement, HAARP director Jessica Matthews said the planned May experiments “were in no way linked to the solar storm or high auroral activity seen around the globe”.

The statement also said the research campaign was scheduled a month and a half before the forecast geomagnetic storm.

Responding to the groundswell of false claims, HAARP released an FAQ page explaining the difference between the airglow the facility can generate and global auroral displays.

“It would take HAARP over 10 billion years to produce enough energy to affect this naturally occurring phenomenon (like throwing a pebble into an ocean that is raging due to a hurricane)," the page reads. 

The Verdict

The claim that recent aurora australis and borealis displays were produced by the HAARP facility is false. 

A powerful geomagnetic storm was confirmed to have created the global auroral display seen in early May. 

HAARP can create artificial airglows but not global auroral events. 

False – The claim is inaccurate

AAP FactCheck is an accredited member of the International Fact-Checking Network. To keep up with our latest fact checks, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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