Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Northern Lights in Southern Skies: The Aurora Borealis and Sun Storms August 2010

The sun, on August 1, 2010 NASA/Corbis

On August 1st, almost the entire Earth-facing side of the sun erupted in a tumult of activity. There was a C3-class solar flare, a solar tsunami, multiple filaments of magnetism lifting off the stellar surface, large-scale shaking of the solar corona, radio bursts, a coronal mass ejection and more. This extreme ultraviolet snapshot from the Solar Dynamics Observatory shows the sun's northern hemisphere in mid-eruption. Different colors in the image represent different gas temperatures ranging from ~1 to 2 million degrees K. Credit: NASA/SDO

There was considerable excitement in North America, with the news that on the night of August 3, 2010, an unusual set of sun storms might make the Aurora Borealis or Northern Lights, visible as far south as the 49th parallel, the latitude that forms much of the border between the US and Canada. There were multiple news articles in both Canadian and American papers online, suggesting people try taking a look into the night sky in the hopes that it would be clear enough, and this natural fireworks spectacular could be glimpsed by people who usually only see it in pictures. Many articles included explanations, the best I found being in, here, and The Globe and Mail, here, as well as Wikipedia, here.

From the Globe and Mail based on University of Alberta and University of Alaska sources

A brief, interesting, and easy explanation of the Aurora Borealis from NASA

Pictures of some previous manifestations follow.

Aurora Borealis, Alberta

Aurora, Borealis, Alaska

Aurora Borealis, Maine, NASA

Aurora Borealis, near Anchorage Alaska

Aurora Borealis, near Abisko Sweden

Purple polar Aurora Borealis

Aurora Borealis, Scandinavia, Photo Craig M. Groshek

Just about the time I started wondering whether there were "Southern Lights" from the South Pole, I discovered, yes there are, the "Aurora Australis".

Aurora Australis captured by NASA's IMAGE satellite
and overlaid onto NASA's satellite-based Blue Marble image

Aurora Australis, Kangaroo Island, Australia, NOAA

Indeed, aurorae can occur on other planets in the solar system too, as in the examples from Saturn and Jupiter below:

Aurora on the far north end of Saturn

Aurora, Jupiter

I enjoy these phenomena for the esthetics, and for the sense that nature, and the universe, bind us all together.

And what did I see? I didn't look...I only found out about it this morning! :(

Related posts:
The Winter Solstice: Where Physics Meets Culture for All
Cross-Cultural Christmases: Saudi, Arab, Muslim, and Non--Part I  Cultural Traditions
Cross-Cultural Christmases: Saudi, Arab, Muslim, and Non--Part II Interfaith Christmases
Cross-Cultural Christmases: Saudi, Arab, Muslim, and Non--Part III The Christianity in Christmas
The Vernal Equinox: Springtime in Saudi and the Equinoctial Day and Night that Join Us All
Passover, Pasqua, and Pilgrimages: Yeshua, Jesus, and Isa
Cross-Cultural Easter Celebrations: The Easter Bunny, His Eggs, and Chocolate!
The Summer Solstice--June 21, 2010; Midsummer Celebrations: June 21-24; St John the Baptist/ Yahya ibn Zakariya يحيى بن زكريا

Did you see the Aurora Borealis on August 3, 2010?
Have you seen it or the Aurora Australis on other occasions?
Any other comments, thoughts, impressions, or experiences?


Susanne said...

How amazingly beautiful! I already love to see the sky, I can't imagine what I'd do if I looked up and saw THIS! Wow! :)

Glad you finally found something to post about! ;-P

Chiara said...

Susanne--LOL :) Lots to post about. Many many drafts, some more drafty than others. Many many comments to make. Felled by the infamous MIGRAINES!!! Seriously looking to move to a place that doesn't have barometric bouncing!

I'm really glad you liked this post, though. I would love to see these for real too.

Thanks for your comment! :)

Susanne said...

Oh, I'm so sorry about your migraines. :(

I'd just noticed no new posts for about 5 days and had to tease you. Hope you are feeling much better soon!

Chiara said...

Susanne--I enjoyed the tease, and I am glad you noticed! Shall I tell you the tragic tale of the sudden train trip, and being left at the station while family went out for my nephew's birthday dinner without me? No, it is too tragic! :( :( :( LOL :) :P :D

Susanne said...

Awwww. :-(

Share only if you want.

Of course, I noticed! I look for new posts in my Google Reader daily. :)

ellen557 said...

Oooh wow! I love the look of the Aurora Australia!!! Although can't help feeling sad that I've never seen it :(

Wendy said...

I have seen them in past years when living in northern Alberta. Hopefully we will make a trip to the 'true north' one day to really see them. I'm sorry I missed this past event.

Also sorry about those awful headaches. Hope you finally outgrow them like I did.

Chiara said...

Susanne--thanks! I may save it for the culinary catastrophes Part II! :)

Ellen--glad you like the post! I hope you get to see the Aurora Australis for real some time! :)

Wendy--how wonderful that you have seen them even from "down South" :) I may have caught a glimpse when I was too young to remember. I should do a stint with the Arctic fly-in psychiatric team and try to see them for real and memorably.

Thanks to all 3 for your comments! :)


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