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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!

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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