Tag Archives: Aurora

An Aurora Cupcake with a Milky Way Topping 

Image Credit & Copyright: Göran Strand

This sky looked delicious. Double auroral ovals were captured above the town lights of Östersund, Sweden, last week. Pictured above, the green ovals occurred lower to the ground than violet aurora rays above, making the whole display look a bit like a cupcake. To top it off, far in the distance, the central band or our Milky Way Galaxy slants down from the upper left. The auroras were caused by our Sun ejecting plasmaclouds into the Solar System just a few days before, ionized particles that subsequently impacted the magnetosphere of the Earth. Aurora displays may continue this week as an active sunspot group rotated into view just a few days ago.

APOD NASA 09-sep-14

Cave with Aurora Skylight 

Image Credit & Copyright: Ingólfur Bjargmundsson

 Yes, but have you ever seen aurora from a cave? To capture this fascinating juxtaposition between below and above, astrophotographer Bjargmundsson spent much of a night alone in the kilometer-longRaufarhólshellir lava cave in Iceland during late March. There, he took separate images of three parts of the cave using a strobe for illumination. He also took a deep image of the sky to capture faint aurora, and digitally combined the four images later. The 4600-year old lava tube has several skylights under which stone rubble and snow have accumulated. Oh — the person standing on each mound — it’s the artist.

APOD NASA 22-Jul-2014

Auroras over Northern Canada 

Image Credit & Copyright: Kwon, O Chul (TWAN)

 Gusting solar winds and blasts of charged particles from the Sun resulted in several rewarding nights last December for those anticipating auroras. The above image captured dramatic auroras stretching across a sky near the town of Yellowknife in northern Canada. The auroras were so bright that they not only inspired awe, but were easily visible on an image exposure of only 1.3 seconds. A video taken concurrently shows the dancing sky lights evolving in real time as tourists, many there just to see auroras, respond with cheers. The conical dwellings on the image right are teepees, while far in the background, near the image center, is theconstellation of Orion.

APOD NASA 14-Jul-14

Persistent Saturnian Auroras 

Image Credit: J. Clarke (Boston U.) & Z. Levay (STScI), ESA, NASA

 Are Saturn’s auroras like Earth’s? To help answer this question, the Hubble Space Telescope and the Cassini spacecraft monitored Saturn’s South Pole simultaneously as Cassini closed in on the gas giant in January 2004. Hubble snapped images in ultraviolet light, while Cassini recorded radio emissions and monitored the solar wind. Like on Earth, Saturn’s auroras make total or partial rings around magnetic poles. Unlike on Earth, however, Saturn’s auroras persist for days, as opposed to only minutes on Earth. Although surely created by charged particles entering the atmosphere, Saturn’s auroras also appear to be more closely modulated by the solar wind than either Earth’s or Jupiter’s auroras. The above sequence shows three Hubble images of Saturn each taken two days apart.

APOD NASA 22-Jun-14

Satellite Station and Southern Skies 

Image Credit & Copyright: James Garlick

This clear night skyscape captures the colorful glow of aurora australis, the southern lights, just outside the port city of Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, planet Earth. As if staring into the dreamlike scene, the Tasmanian Earth Resources Satellite Station poses in the center, illuminated by nearby city lights. Used to receive data from spacebased Earth observing instruments, including NASA’s MODIS and SeaWiFS, the station was decommissioned in 2011 and dismantled only recently, shortly after the picture was taken on April 30. Still shining in southern skies though, the central bulge of our Milky Way galaxy and two bright satellite galaxies the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds appear in the frame. The Small Magellanic Cloud shines through the fainter red auroral band.
NASA APOD 31-May-14

Aurora Dog over Alaska 

Image Credit & Copyright: John Chumack

Sometimes it is hard to believe what you see in the sky. While leading his annual aurora tour last month near Fairbanks in central Alaska, astrophotographer John Chumack and his company saw a most unusual aurora. This bright aurora appeared to change into the shape of a jumping dog, complete with a curly tail. He was able to capture the fleeting natural apparition in the above image with a 15-second exposure through a wide-angle lens. By coincidence, he also captured a background sky filled with familiar highlights. Planets visible include bright Jupiter through the dog’s front legs and reddish Mars below the dog’s hind legs. Stars visible include the Big Dipper stars above the dog’s midsection and reddish Betelgeuse shining on the far right. This dog would not be following him home, however, and within a few minutes morphed into other shapes before thegeomagnetic storm particles that created it shifted to strike the Earth elsewhere.

NASA APOD 29-Apr-14

Orion and Aurora over Iceland

Image Credit & Copyright: Þorvarður Árnason
If you see a sky like this – photograph it. A month ago in Iceland, an adventurous photographer (pictured) chanced across a sky full of aurora and did just that. In the foreground lies the stratovolcanoÖræfajökull. In the background, among other sky delights, lies the constellation of Orion, visible to the aurora’s left. Auroras are sparked by energetic particles from the Sun impacting the magnetic environment around the Earth. Resultant energetic particles such as electrons and protons rain down near the Earth’s poles and impact the air. The impacted air molecules obtain excited electrons, and when electrons in oxygen molecules fall back to their ground state, they emit green light. Auroras are known to have many shapes and colors.

NASA APOD 24-mar-2014

Aurora over New Zealand


Image Credit & Copyright: David Weir (Earth and Sky Ltd.)

Sometimes the more you look at an image, the more you see. Such may be the case for this beautiful nighttime panorama taken last week in New Zealand. Visible right off, on the far left, are common clouds, slightly altered by the digital fusion of combining 11 separate 20-second exposures. More striking, perhaps, is the broad pink aurora that dominates the right part of the image, a less common auroral color that is likely tinted by excited oxygen atoms high in Earth’s atmosphere. Keep looking and you might notice a bright light just beyond the mountain on the left. That is the rising Moon — and an even closer look will reveal faint crepuscular raysemanating from it. Musing over the image center may cause you to notice the central band of the Milky Way Galaxy which here appears to divide, almost vertically, the left clouds from the right aurora. Inspecting the upper right of the image reveals a fuzzy patch, high in the sky, that is the Small Magellanic Cloud. Numerous stars discretely populate the distant background. Back on Earth, the image foreground features two domes of the Mt. John University Observatory and a camera tripod looking to capture much of this scene over a serene Lake Tekapo.

APOD NASA 26-feb-2014

Time-Lapse Auroras Over Norway

 Credit & Copyright: Terje Sørgjerd; Music: Gladiator Soundtrack: Now we are Free
Sometimes, after your eyes adapt to the dark, a spectacular sky appears. Such was the case in 2011 March when one of the largest auroral displays in recent years appeared over northern locations like the border between Norway and Russia. Pictured in the above time-lapse movie, auroras flow over snow covered landscapes, trees, clouds, mountains and lakes found near Kirkenes, Norway. Many times the auroras are green, as high energy particles strike the Earth’s atmosphere, causing the air to glow as electrons resettle into their oxygen hosts. Other colors are occasionally noticeable as atmospheric nitrogen also becomes affected. In later sequences the Moon and rising stars are also visible. With the Sun currently hovering near its time of maximum activity, there may be many opportunities to see similarly spectacular auroras personally, even from areas much closer to the equator.
NASA APOD 29-dec-13

Alaska Aurora Sequence


Image Credit & Copyright: 
LeRoy Zimmerman (TWAN)

Explanation: A remarkably intense auroral band flooded the northern night with shimmering colors on December 7. The stunning sequence captured here was made with a camera fixed to a tripod under cold, clear skies near Ester, just outside of Fairbanks, Alaska. Left to right, spanning a period of about 30 minutes, the panels follow changes in the dancing curtains of northern lights extending to altitudes of over 100 kilometers in a band arcing directly overhead. The panels span 150 degrees vertically, covering about 500 kilometers of aurora laying across the sky from edge to edge. The auroral activity was triggered by a moderate level geomagnetic storm, as a high speed solar wind stream buffeted planet Earth’s magnetosphere.

NASA APOD 28-dec-13