Residents of Iqaluit, Nunavut woke up on Tuesday morning seeing red — literally.

The city took on a strange rose hue throughout the day, wowing residents and leading to plenty of theories. CBC North's Nick Murray snapped a photo of the colouration outside CBC's Iqaluit bureau, which was shared widely across Facebook and Twitter. By Wednesday afternoon, the photo had reached nearly 200,000 people on CBC's Facebook pages alone.

Pink sky in Iqaluit

Another unfiltered photo of the pink colouring that fell over Iqaluit Tuesday afternoon. Ashley Brauweiler, CBC North's meteorologist, says the colouration was likely caused by light scattering. This photo was taken approximately 30 minutes after Nick Murray's, explaining the darker colouring. (Sima Sahar Zerehi/CBC)

The photo was quickly confirmed by other Iqaluit residents, some of which had their own theories. 

"Ziggy Stardust just flew by," commented Kevin Robinson, a reference to the recent passing of David Bowie. 

"Is it be cuz [sic] of your sunglasses?" asked Susie Pinguatuq, commenting on CBC Nunavut's Facebook page

red sky social reaction

A snapshot of the reaction on Facebook to the red hue that fell over Iqaluit Tuesday. Some people commented on their awe at seeing the scene, while others offered up theories. (Facebook)

Light scattering likely culprit

However, the likely answer for the strange colouration isn't related to pop icons, or eyewear: instead, it's rooted in how light reacts with the atmosphere.

CBC North meteorologist Ashley Brauweiler says Iqaluit's red sky is likely a result of light scattering, where sunlight is reflected through particles in the atmosphere. The colouring was also likely intensified by the time of day the photo was taken — near sunset — when the sun is lower in the sky.

"When the sun is at a low angle in the sky, the light has a longer distance to travel," said Brauweiler. "The blue [colouration, which leads to a more common 'blue sky'] gets removed by the ice crystals and salt in the air, which leaves red visible."

"The clouds are much larger than light waves, which allows them to take on the colour, in this case pink."

 

Pink and clear sky

Murray's original photo, taken Tuesday at 2:30 p.m. local time, is on the left. A second photo of the same location, taken Wednesday at noon, is on the right. (Nick Murray/CBC)