Auroras are the most visible manifestation of the Sun’s effect on Earth, but many aspects of these spectacular displays are still poorly understood. Thanks to ESA’s Cluster and NASA’s Image satellites working together, a particular type of very high-latitude aurora has now been explained.
Although separated by some 150 million kilometres, the Sun and Earth are connected by the solar wind. This stream of plasma – electrically charged atomic particles – is launched by the Sun and travels across the Solar System, carrying its own magnetic field with it.
NASA trained several pairs of eyes on Saturn as the planet put on a dancing light show at its poles. While NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, orbiting around Earth, was able to observe the northern auroras in ultraviolet wavelengths, NASA’s Cassini spacecraft, orbiting around Saturn, got complementary close-up views in infrared, visible-light and ultraviolet wavelengths. Cassini could also see northern and southern parts of Saturn that don’t face Earth.
The result is a kind of step-by-step choreography detailing how the auroras move, showing the complexity of these auroras and how scientists can connect an outburst from the sun and its effect on the magnetic environment at Saturn. A new video showing aurora images from Hubble and Cassini is available here.
“Saturn’s auroras can be fickle — you may see fireworks, you may see nothing,” said Jonathan Nichols of the University of Leicester in England, who led the work on the Hubble images. “In 2013, we were treated to a veritable smorgasbord of dancing auroras, from steadily shining rings to super-fast bursts of light shooting across the pole.”
Solar activity is at its highest in years and Slooh Space Camera will capture the beauty and fire of one of natures most spectacular phenomena — The Aurora Borealis. Astronomer Bob Berman will be onsite outside of Fairbanks, Alaska at one of the best viewing sites in the world, reporting in as we view the beautiful blaze of the Northern Lights live and in true color.
The show will begin on Thursday. 3/22 starting at 11:00 PM PDT / 2:00 AM EDT (06:00 UTC on 3/23). The broadcast can be accessed at Slooh’s homepage or by visiting Slooh’s G+ page, where you will be able to see the panel interact live via G+ Hangouts On Air.
Media websites can embed Slooh’s live syndicated image feed directly into their own coverage of the event by visiting Slooh’s media page.
Viewing the Aurora Borealis is not easy unless the display is unusually intense, the auroral oval has thickened and moved south, you live in the northern third of the US, and observe away from city lights, where the sky is dark. However, central Alaska sits directly under the auroral oval and can see the Northern Lights most nights when the sun is active, like now.
A red alert means that aurora will likely be visible from the entire United Kingdom – don’t miss out on this great opportunity!
Full Story: http://aurorawatch.lancs.ac.uk/