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Posts Tagged ‘aurora’

Origin Of High-Latitude Auroras Revealed

December 18, 2014 Leave a comment

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.

Link To Full Story And Video

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NASA Spacecraft Get A 360-Degree View Of Saturn’s Auroras

February 13, 2014 Leave a comment

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Colorado/Central Arizona College and NASA/ESA/University of Leicester and NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Lancaster University

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Colorado/Central Arizona College and NASA/ESA/University of Leicester and NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona/Lancaster University

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.”

Link To Full Story

Oslo-physicists use 20 new satellites to forecast space weather


The northern lights interfere with radio communications, GPS navigation and satellite communications. Researchers are now going to launch 20 satellites containing world class instruments from the University of Oslo to find out why.

Satellites are becoming increasingly important in communications and navigation. This makes us more vulnerable to the northern lights, especially within offshore and aviation. In a worst case scenario an aircraft can lose contact with its surroundings. Oil tankers can struggle with precise navigation.

In order to more precisely predict when radio communications and navigation will fail, researchers require more information about what happens when violent solar winds hit the Earth and produce the northern lights.

The solar winds consist of charged particles and produce powerful turbulence in the ionosphere, which consists of plasma clouds with electrical particles at an altitude of 80 to 500 km. The turbulence interferes with radio signals. Sometimes they are reflected wrongly. On other occasions the signals are blocked altogether.

“In the northern regions GPS satellites lie low in the sky. This means the signals have to pass through the ionosphere. This reinforces the navigation problems,” says professor Jøran Moen of the Department of Physics at University of Oslo (UiO), Norway.

Full story: http://www.apollon.uio.no/english/articles/2012/spaceweather.html

AuroraWatch Issues Red Alert for Observers in the United Kingdom

March 15, 2012 Leave a comment

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/

Storms From the Sun

March 12, 2012 Leave a comment

Space weather starts at the sun. It begins with an eruption such as a huge burst of light and radiation called a solar flare or a gigantic cloud of solar material called a coronal mass ejection (CME). But the effects of those eruptions happen at Earth, or at least near-Earth space. Scientists monitor several kinds of space “weather” events — geomagnetic storms, solar radiation storms, and radio blackouts – all caused by these immense explosions on the sun.

One of the most common forms of space weather, a geomagnetic storm refers to any time Earth’s magnetic environment, the magnetosphere, undergoes sudden and repeated change. This is a time when magnetic fields continually re-align and energy dances quickly from one area to another.

Geomagnetic storms occur when certain types of CMEs connect up with the outside of the magnetosphere for an extended period of time. The solar material in a CME travels with its own set of magnetic fields. If the fields point northward, they align with the magnetosphere’s own fields and the energy and particles simply slide around Earth, causing little change. But if the magnetic fields point southward, in the opposite direction of Earth’s fields, the effects can be dramatic. The sun’s magnetic fields peel back the outermost layers of Earth’s fields changing the whole shape of the magnetosphere. This is the initial phase of a geomagnetic storm.

Full Story: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/storms-on-sun.html

Another Major Flare – Class X5

March 7, 2012 2 comments

Big sunspot AR1429 has unleashed another major flare–an X5-class eruption on March 7th at 00:28 UT.   As a result of the blast, a radiation storm is underway and a CME will likely hit Earth’s magnetic field in a day or so. Geomagnetic storms are already in progress at high latitudes due to earlier eruptions from the active sunspot.  Last night, auroras were spotted over several northern-tier US states including Michigan and Wisconsin.  Check http://spaceweather.com for updates and images.

GEOMAGNETIC STORM UPDATE: A CME propelled toward Earth by this morning’s X5-class solar flare is expected to reach our planet on March 8th at 0625 UT (+/- 7 hr). Analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab, who prepared the CME’s forecast track, say the impact could spark a strong-to-severe geomagnetic storm. Sky watchers at all latitudes should be alert for auroras. Aurora alerts: text,phone.

A mild geomagnetic storm is already underway, following a lesser CME impact on March 7th around 0400 UT. Shortly after the cloud arrived, a burst of Northern Lights appeared over the US-Canadian border.

Full Story: http://www.spaceweather.com/archive.php?view=1&day=07&month=03&year=2012

Scientists Launch NASA Rocket into Aurora

February 21, 2012 Leave a comment

With the full sky shimmering in green aurora, Saturday night (Feb. 18, 2012) a team of scientists, including space physicist Marc Lessard and graduate students from the University of New Hampshire’s Space Science Center, launched an instrument-laden, two-stage sounding rocket from the Poker Flat Research Range in Fairbanks, Alaska. The precision measurements from the rocket’s instruments will shed new light on the physical processes that create the northern lights and further our understanding of the complex sun-Earth connection.

Funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Magnetosphere-Ionosphere Coupling in the Alfvén resonator (MICA) mission sent a 40-foot Terrier-Black Brant rocket arcing through aurora 200 miles above Earth. The rocket sent a stream of real-time data back before landing some 200 miles downrange shortly after the launch.

Full Story: http://www.eos.unh.edu/news/indiv_news.shtml?NEWS_ID=1301