Is it “auroras” or “aurorae”? The dictionary prefers the former, but either way, there was a multiplicity of auroral awesomeness this weekend — thanks to a solar storm that swept past Earth’s magnetic field over the weekend. During the past few days, we’ve shown off a few stunning images from Norway and Canada, and there’s a new crop to share today.
First, a little explanation for what you’re looking at:
Auroral lights arise when electrically charged particles from the sun interact with atoms and ions high up in Earth’s atmosphere, 60 to 200 miles up. The interaction sets off emissions in wavelengths ranging from blue, to green (the most common color), to red. The colors depend on the energy of the particles in question. To get the full story on that, check out the explanations from the“Causes of Color” website and the University of Alaska at Fairbanks.
This weekend’s auroras were particularly bright because ofa strong solar outburst that occurred on Thursday. There’s an interval between the outburst and the displays because the particles that are ejected from the sun travel at far less than the speed of light. But they’re still pretty speedy — the velocity is on the order of a million miles an hour.
Solar outbursts, known more formally as coronal mass ejections or CMEs, have the potential to disrupt electrical grids or satellite communications. There could be radiation effects on astronauts in orbit or passengers on high-altitude, pole-traversing airplane flights. Thursday’s outburst dealt Earth’s magnetic field a glancing blow, and no significant negative impact has been reported. However, an even stronger CME is currently on its way toward Earth and may force the rerouting of polar flights. Once again, electric-grid managers and satellite operators will be on alert, as will aurora-watchers.
Observers in northern latitudes can look forward to enhanced auroras over the next couple of nights — and the rest of us can look forward to more images like these:
Bjorn Jorgensen’s view of the aurora was captured on Sunday at Grotfjord, close to Tromso in north Norway. “This was amazing,” he told SpaceWeather.com. “It was a wonderful experience to see these stunning auroras.” The bird-of-prey picture was taken with a Nikon D3S camera equipped with a Nikkor 14-24mm lens. Exposure for the pictures in Jorgenson’s set was ISO 2200 at five and six seconds. Check out SpaceWeather.com andArcticPhoto.no for more views.
Chad Blakley said on Sunday that he had “an unbelievable night” at Sweden’s Abisko National Park. “As soon as the sun went down I realized that we were about to experience something special,” he told SpaceWeather.com. “The auroras have been dancing all night long and show no sign of stopping! I only came in because 32 gigabytes of memory cards were full and all three batteries were dead!” Click on over to Blakley’s Vimeo page for a time-lapse video version of this imagery, and check out SpaceWeather.com for more from Abisko.
for more amazing picture of these auroras, go to the story at: http://photoblog.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2012/01/23/10217788-auroras-spark-awe-across-the-north