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UI’s Scudder Makes First Observations Of Process Linked To Northern Lights


A University of Iowa researcher wants you to visualize a plate of spaghetti when you think of the northern lights.

That’s because Jack Scudder, UI professor of physics and astronomy, and his colleagues have reached a milestone in describing how the northern lights work by way of a process called “magnetic reconnection.”

Diffuse gas—called plasma—flows outward from the sun as the “solar wind” and carries with it magnetic field lines (“spaghetti”) from the sun.

The entanglement between magnetic field lines (spaghetti) from the sun and other field lines (spaghetti) anchored in the Earth’s core occurs when these field lines are brought together by gusts of solar wind.

Full Story: http://now.uiowa.edu/2012/05/astronomical-illumination

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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