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Remember That Huge Solar Storm We Just Had?

At the beginning of March 2012, we had a few days’ worth of pretty major solar activity — does anyone remember this?

This storm produced some pretty incredible Auroras Borealis and Australis for days before and after the big CME from the Sun.  CME means coronal mass ejection, which is a huge burst of solar wind that is powerful enough to push the bits of solar wind our direction.  Solar wind is a big gust of protons and electrons with very, very strong electrical charges.  Solar wind and coronal mass ejections are the things that the news and scientists talk about that might disrupt our power grids and kill our electronics.  All of these phenomena are called space weather — which tickles me silly and makes me giggle:

These massive bursts (CMEs) of charged particles plays hell on the Earth’s magnetosphere, which is a protective magnetic field that basically wind blocks the Earth from solar wind.  When the CMEs are very, very strong, the magnetosphere just gets sort of magnetically bent out of the way, causing havoc at the planet’s surface.  In the scary event of something like a nuclear war, a similar tactic is utilized to disable an enemy’s defenses and communication electronics — a nuclear weapon is detonated above the target country somewhere in the upper atmosphere, and the huge electromagnetic pulse fries anything that has a circuit board.  After that, the bombardment begins pretty much whenever chosen; the enemy can no longer see, hear, or talk electronically.

This is an excellent GIF of this phenomenon taken using the LASCO telescope — watch the bottom right quadrant of the image:

There are so many theories on why we’re seeing this activity in such magnitudes.  *deep breath* Could it be a coincidence of some kind of Mayan calendar thing, where the dark rift of the Milky Way is going to unleash a solar storm of magnitudes only seen by Nicolas Cage in Knowing?!  Who knows, probably not.  But I was so disappointed in that movie about this very same thing when the damned aliens showed up to “save the planet’s children.”  COME ON.  ALIENS?!  COME ON, NICK!

This is a video of the big X5.4 class solar flare that happened on March 7, 2012:

The beautiful thing is that if I’m wrong, who gives a poo, we’re all completely dead and vaporized from this world anyway, and probably with a quickness.  Really, is there anything to be afraid of?  it’s not like we’re going to know once it happens!  There are lots of websites out there that talk about all of our electrical grid being knocked out; now granted if that were to happen, we’re in quite a lot of trouble fo sho, but anything along the line of a super-mega-ultra-duper X-class flare that brought the heat and torched up our planet would just make us go away.  Solar wind travels somewhere in the neighborhood of hundreds of billions of miles per hour.  Do you think there’s anything that man can make that can protect us from something of that scale?

There is a theory about this thing called the Milky Way dark rift, too — the dark rift is the middle bit of the Milky Way that the earth passes through once every “age,” as it’s known to those who take stock in the study of Astrology.  Not tied to Astrology is what the dark rift actually is, which is a dense mass of charged particles and clouds that are very thick and full of stellar stuffs.  if you were to do some google searching on this phenomenon, you would come across some very end of the world websites and some “nah, calm the eff down” websites.  Really, everything we can track is speculation at this point, regardless of the fact that some of the smartest brains on Earth are studying this very phenomenon and that we have some very high tech but relatively primitive looking glasses in the skies above Earth.

From NASA on the subject of the Dark Rift, 2012 Alignment and Doomsday predictions:

One of the most bizarre theories about 2012 has built up with very little attention to facts. This idea holds that a cosmic alignment of the sun, Earth, the center of our galaxy — or perhaps the galaxy’s thick dust clouds — on the winter solstice could for some unknown reason lead to destruction. Such alignments can occur but these are a regular occurrence and can cause no harm (and, indeed, will not even be at its closest alignment during the 2012 solstice.)

The details are as follows: Viewed far from city lights, a glowing path called the Milky Way can be seen arching across the starry sky. This path is formed from the light of millions of stars we cannot see individually. It coincides with the mid plane of our galaxy, which is why our galaxy is also named the Milky Way.

Thick dust clouds also populate the galaxy. And while infrared telescopes can see them clearly, our eyes detect these dark clouds only as irregular patches where they dim or block the Milky Way’s faint glow. The most prominent dark lane stretches from the constellations Cygnus to Sagittarius and is often called the Great Rift, sometimes the Dark Rift.

Another impressive feature of our galaxy lies unseen in Sagittarius: the galactic center, about 28,000 light-years away, which hosts a black hole weighing some four million times the sun’s mass.

The claim for 2012 links these two pieces of astronomical fact with a third — the position of the sun near the galactic center on Dec. 21, the winter solstice for the Northern Hemisphere — to produce something that makes no astronomical sense at all.

On the bright side (get it?), the images and video that have been captured from places like the International Space Station and in extreme latitudes of the Aurora Borealis (northern) and Aurora Australis (southern) have been absolutely unbelievable.  Seeing them on video just blows my mind, I cannot imagine how I’d feel if I could see one in real time!  Check some of these out, this stuff is absolutely amazing:

Aurora Borealis:

Aurora Australis:

Seriously, it is almost unexplainably beautiful:

Photo credit Giles Boutin

Photo credit Yuichi Takasawa

So who’s right and who’s wrong, here?  Who cares?!  This stuff is amazing and beautiful!

Thanks to HD Wallpapers, Wikipedia, Policy Mic, the NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center, and Nicolas Cage, even though the end of Knowing sucked (but I still love you, Nick!)

Au-WHOA-ras!

Arctic Photo, Tromsø, Norway

Seeing an aurora has been on my bucket list since as soon as I could brag to my childhood friends the name of the Disney princess was actually a  freaking awesome astronomical phenomena.

Auroras form from energized particles (predominantly electrons) accelerate across Earth’s magnetic fields, colliding with our gasses and creating photons! Their colors of the aurora are determined by which gas atoms and molecules the particles collide with. Check out the graph below, which shows how the gas dispersal in our atmosphere at different altitudes creates the different colors of auroras. The colors of their lines relate to the predominant color the particle collision with these gasses create.  WICKED, huh?!

They start as still east-west bands, until they suddenly “dance” across the sky in waves. Then the aurora will break in to numerous arcs and continue its dance travelling towards the south

Recently we experienced the largest solar flare in 6 years, which triggered beautiful auroras in even lower altitudes than they usually lie, and at intensities that staggered seasoned aurora scientists. Below is a SPECTACULAR video that shows the truly unbelievable range of movement and speed of a recent auroral substorm… but most importantly which most aurora time lapses don’t show–humans! Marvel at the sheer scale and speed of movement of these phenomena! What’s even more exciting is, the sun is likely to become even more active with solar storms in the next few months and years! BRING IT, YOU HOT, MASSIVE SPHERE OF PLASMA AND MAGNETIC FEILDS.

Lights Over Lapland Photo Expedition video of CME impact on 1-24-2012 from Lights Over Lapland on Vimeo.

 

The photo above was taken by Bjørn Jørgensen. It and many more shots of the recent flares can be seen here.

Learn about NASA’s Themis mission which studies auroral substorms and other space weather here.

Jim posted another aurora time lapse video almost a year ago that is QUALITY.

Graph via the Geophysical Institute at University of Alaska.

 

Peace, love, and photons!

Norway Aurora Borealis – Best Thing You’ll See Today

So, if you’re just sitting on your duff right now waiting for the next JOL article to hit the net (yeah right!), then rest assured that, unless you’ve got a media server and a big ass projector and a whole bunch of the brown acid, you’re about to have your face rocked.  All of the solar flare activity that’s been going on has made the Aurora Borealis go absolutely siiiiick lately.  Seriously, that was four extra “i’s” in that word just to describe the imminent sickage.

What the %$#$ am I talking about?!  WATCH THIS VIDEO!

Worth it? You’re welcome.

Friday Awesome – Northern Lights Time-Lapse Video

Whoa.

This has been one crazy busy week!  I’m in technical rehearsals tomorrow for a greek show called The House of Atreus – I am lighting the show, and I wrote a bunch of music for it, so my brain should be completely yogurt by the end of the weekend.  I’m also about to launch into the focus week for The Wedding Singer – oh yeah, I still have to build a light plot for that show.

Good times!

I saw this last night, and I had to share it with you all – check out this time lapse video of Aurora Borealis in the night time sky.  Photographer Terje Sorgjerd is the man responsible for this beautiful work – from what I understand, it is the culmination of tens of thousands of photos!

The Aurora from Terje Sorgjerd on Vimeo.

Create Your Own Northern Lights! Ah, Aurora Borealis, You Make Good Web 2.0

Of all the things I didn’t get to do before I left Sweden, the one thing I have to go back to do is to see Aurora Borealis, or the “Northern Lights.”  The phenomenon occurs in our ionosphere when ionized gases (like oxygen and nitrogen) get excited from the solar wind particles coming in.  The result of the excitation of these gases is a photon of light.  So those crazy Star Trek V ribbons of light that you can see in the sky in the polar regions is excited gas bouncing around in the ionosphere.

What this post was actually about was the cool make-your-own-aurora generator that the Visit Norway website has up right now.  Go make your own Northern Lights – pretty cool!

Aurora Borealis – Nature’s “Cue One, GO”

The Telegraph posted some images of Aurora Borealis – or as most refer to them, “The Northern Lights.”  I have never had the pleasure of seeing this phenomenon, but my wife and I have a goal to save up for an Alaska trip to see them in the Northern night sky at some point in our lives.

Every image I see of the aurora makes me wonder how Solar winds flowing past the Earth can show such beauty.  They remind me of the first time I ever saw a moonbow, standing in the below freezing temperatures in Macomb, IL in 1997.

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