Posts tagged northern lights

Posted 1 year ago

Aurorae over Planet Earth 
Image Credit : NASANOAAGSFCSuomi NPPEarth Observatory
processing by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon

Explanation: North America at night is easy to recognize in this view of our fair planet from orbit, acquired by the Suomi-NPP satellite on October 8. The spectacular waves of visible light emission rolling above the Canadian provinces of Quebec and Ontario in the upper half of the frame are the Aurora Borealis or northern lights. Encircling the poles and extending to lower latitudes, impressive aurorae seen during the past few days are due to strong geomagnetic storms. The storms were triggered by a solar coronal mass ejection on October 4/5, impacting Earth’s magnetosphere some three days later. The curtains of light, shining well over 100 kilometers above the surface, are formed as charged particles accelerated in the magnetosphere excite oxygen and nitrogen in the upper atmosphere.

Posted 1 year ago

September’s Aurora 
Image Credit & CopyrightFredrick Broms (Northern Lights Photography)

Explanation: September’s equinox arrives tomorrow as the Sun crosses the celestial equator heading south. The event marks the astronomical beginning of spring in the southern hemisphere and autumn in the north. And though the connection is still puzzling, the equinox seasons bring an increase in geomagnetic storms. So as northern nights grow longer, the equinox also heralds the arrival of a good season for aurora hunters. Recorded on September 20, these colorful northern lights were captured with camera and wide-angle lens near the Norwegian Sea coast outside Tromsø in Northern Norway. Shining at altitudes of 100 kilometers or so, the aurora rays are parallel, but perspective makes them appear to radiate from a vanishing point behind the silhouetted pine tree. Stars in this enchanting northern night include Polaris above and right of the tree top, and yellowish giant stars Shedar (Alpha Cassiopiae) to the left and Kochab (Beta Ursae Minoris) to the right. Bright Altair shines through the greenish auroral curtain at the lower left of the scene.

Posted 1 year ago

Pink Aurora Over Crater Lake
Image Credit & Copyright: Brad Goldpaint (Goldpaint Photography)

Explanation: Why is this aurora strikingly pink? When photographing picturesque Crater Lake in Oregon, USA last month, the background sky lit up with auroras of unusual colors. Although much is known about the physical mechanisms that create auroras, accurately predicting the occurrence and colors of auroras remains a topic of investigation. Typically, it is known, the lowest auroras appear green. These occur at about 100 kilometers high and involve atmospheric oxygen atoms excited by fast moving plasma from space. The next highest auroras — at about 200 kilometers up — appear red, and are also emitted by resettling atmospheric oxygen. Some of the highest auroras visible — as high as 500 kilometers up — appear blue, and are caused by sunlight-scattering nitrogen ions. When looking from the ground through different layers of distant auroras, their colors can combine to produce unique and spectacular hues, in this case rare pink hues seen above. As Solar Maximum nears over the next two years, particle explosions from the Sun are sure to continue and likely to create even more memorable nighttime displays.

Posted 2 years ago
Planet Aurora Borealis
Image Credit & Copyright: Göran Strand

Explanation: Illuminated by an eerie greenish light, this remarkable little planet is covered with ice and snow and ringed by tall pine trees. Of course, this little planet is actually planet Earth, and the surrounding stars are above the horizon near Östersund, Sweden. The pale greenish illumination is from a curtain of shimmering Aurora Borealis also known as the Northern Lights. The display was triggered when a giant solar coronal mass ejection (CME) rocked planet Earth’s magnetosphere on January 24th and produced a strong geomagnetic storm. Northern hemisphere skygazers will also recognize the familiar orientation of stars at the left, including the Pleiades and Hyades star clusters and the stars of Orion. Increasing solar activity has caused recent auroral displays to be wide spread, including Aurora Australis, the Southern Lights, at high southern latitudes.

Posted 2 years ago
Cloudy Night of the Northern Lights
Image Credit & Copyright: Fredrick Broms (Northern Lights Photography)

Explanation: On September 26, a large solar coronal mass ejection smacked into planet Earth’s magnetosphere producing a severe geomagnetic storm and wide spread auroras. Captured here near local midnight from Kvaløya island outside Tromsø in northern Norway, the intense auroral glow was framed by parting rain clouds. Tinted orange, the clouds are also in silhouette as the tops of the colorful shimmering curtains of northern lights extend well over 100 kilometers above the ground. Though the auroral rays are parallel, perspective makes them appear to radiate from a vanishing point at the zenith. Near the bottom of the scene, an even more distant Pleiades star cluster and bright planet Jupiter shine on this cloudy northern night.

Posted 2 years ago
Violent Sunspot Group AR 1302 Unleashes a Flare
Image Credit: jp-Brahic

Explanation: One of the most active sunspot groups in years is currently crossing the Sun. AR 1302 first came around the Sun’s edge last week and is so large it can be seen without a telescope. Coronal Mass Ejections from AR 1302 have already caused strong geomagnetic storms including notable aurora activity around both of Earth’s poles. Pictured above, plasma was left magnetically hanging above the Sun’s surface after AR 1302 emitted an X-class solar flare last Thursday. Earth is illustrated in the inset for a size comparison. Although another X-class flare was emitted on Saturday, no flares from AR 1302 have been aimed directly at the Earth, as yet. The AR 1302 sunspot group will continue to evolve but likely remain visible on the Sun for the next week.

Posted 2 years ago
September’s Aurora
Image Credit & Copyright: Yuichi Takasaka / TWAN /

Explanation: September’s equinox arrives today at 0905 UT. As the Sun crosses the celestial equator heading south, spring begins in the southern hemisphere and autumn in the north. And though the seasonal connection is still puzzling, both spring and autumn bring an increase in geomagnetic storms. So as northern nights grow longer, the equinox also heralds the arrival of a good season for viewing aurora. Recorded earlier this month, these curtains of September’s shimmering green light sprawl across a gorgeous night skyscape. In the foreground lies Hidden Lake Territorial Park near Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada. Calm water reflects the aurora, with bright star trails peering through the mesmerizing sky glow. Of course, shining at altitudes of 100 kilometers or so, planet Earth’s auroras are visible from space.

Posted 2 years ago
Aurora Over Greenland
Image Credit: Copyright: Juan Carlos Casado (TWAN)

Explanation: This aurora arched from horizon to horizon. During the current Shelios expedition to observe and learn about the northern lights, the sky last weekend did not disappoint. After sunset and some careful photographic planning, the above image was taken from the expedition’s Qaleraliq campsite in southern Greenland. Visible straight through the center of the aurora, found with a careful eye, is the Big Dipper and the surrounding constellation of the Big Bear (Ursa Major). The brightest orb on the far right is the Moon, while Jupiter can be seen even further to the right. The Shelios expedition is scheduled to last until the end of August and include live broadcasts of ongoing auroras.