Label: Aurora Borealis

September 3, 2013

This magnificent photo of the Aurora Borealis (also known as the Northern Lights) over Canada’s Yukon territory is today’s Cool Photo of the Week. Are you wondering about where these beautiful lights come from? You can read about it in my online Science Dictionary!



Photo: Jonathan Tucker 




Posted by: Seymour Simon

(0) Comments  •   Labels: space, Cool Photo, Aurora Borealis, Northern Lights, Space Weather   •  Permalink (link to this article)

January 25, 2012

Welcome to Writing Wednesday! Every Wednesday you can publish your own creative writing on the Seymour Science blog.

Writing Wednesday has two simple rules: 

  1. Give us the best you’ve got in 5 minutes. That’s right - five minutes of creative writing. Think of it as a word extravaganza to warm up your brain for the rest of the day!
  2. Tell us your first name, the name of your school, and how old you are. 

Ready? Let’s go!

As a scientist wrote yesterday, "THE SUN IS WAKING UP." The sun goes through regular cycles, and we have entered a period of high solar activity. Huge solar storms have been sweeping the surface of the sun for the past week, sending bursts of geomagnetic radiation called "solar flares" toward Earth. When this radiation hits Earth’s magnetic field, it causes bursts of light that we call the Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights. Sometimes they look like ghostly fingers in the sky; sometimes they look like huge explosions of colored lights. 

Here is a photograph of the Northern Lights as seen in Finland this week. Take five minutes and write a list of five words to describe this nighttime sight. Enter your writing by clicking on the yellow "Comments" at the bottom of this blog post.

 Happy writing!

 Photo: Arnar Bergur Guðjónsson

Posted by: Liz Nealon

(8) Comments  •   Labels: Common Core, science news, Writing Wednesday, Aurora Borealis, sun, Bell Ringers   •  Permalink (link to this article)

November 1, 2011

  Today’s "Cool Photo of the Week" is a nighttime view of the Midwestern United States, captured from the International Space Station. From space, astronauts can see many different kinds of lights in the night skies.

The artificial light created by humans is easily recognizable by its yellowish tone. The burst of bright white light in the upper right hand corner of the photograph is probably lightning. And the green glow rimming the edge of the planet is the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights.

If you look closely, there is even more that you can see in this view. Look at Chicago. Just to the right of Chicago’s big patch of lights, there is a completely dark section. Why do the lights stop so suddenly? Because you are looking at one of the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan.


  Can anyone tell me what the very faint, dark orange shape is at the top of the photograph, above Earth? The first person to answer correctly, by clicking "Comments" at the bottom of this blog entry, will win an autographed copy of my book SPACE TRAVELERS. Be sure to include your email address (and check it to be sure you have spelled it correctly!), so that we can contact you if you are the winner.

Good Luck!


Photo courtesy of Cloud Imaging and Particle Size Experiment data processing team at the University of Colorado Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(11) Comments  •   Labels: space, Cool Photo, Contests, Aurora Borealis, Space Travel   •  Permalink (link to this article)

September 23, 2011

Look at this magnificent video of the aurora australis, captured by cameras mounted on the belly of the International Space Station. These flickering, colored lights in the atmosphere are caused by electrons trapped in Earth’s magnetic field. We call the flickering lights the aurora borealis, or "northern lights" here in the northern hemisphere. But the space station was flying over the south pole when it recorded this video, and when seen over Antarctic regions they are called the aurora australis, or "southern lights." NASA says that it may be the best video ever captured of this ghostly phenomenon.

The sun is never at rest, but the amount of solar activity changes over eleven-year cycles in which the sun is alternately very quiet, and the years it has many storms. We are entering a new, active cycle, and the aurora you see in this video was caused by a geomagnetic storm on the sun that launched a blazing hot coronal mass ejection (CME) toward the earth. No one has a better view of its effect on Earth than the crew of the International Space Station. The lights are so bright that you can see the underside of the space station grow green in the reflected light. 

Video: Taken over the southern Indian Ocean, the movie spans a 23-min period from 17:22:27 to 17:45:12 GMT on Sept. 17. Courtesy NASA.

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(2) Comments  •   Labels: space, Aurora Borealis, Video, Space Weather   •  Permalink (link to this article)

August 21, 2010

This just in from one of my favorite sites, A coronal hole on the sun is turning to face Earth. Coronal holes are places in the sun’s atmosphere where the magnetic field opens up and allows solar wind to escape. Here is a magnetic map of the hole from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory:

  photo coronal hole


The magnetic field lines are color-coded in this very cool image. White lines are closed; they are holding the solar wind in. Golden lines are open; they allow the solar wind out. A stream of solar wind flowing from this coronal hole is expected to reach Earth on or about August 24th.

 People in high latitudes (closer to the poles) have a chance of seeing auroras (also known as northern lights) this week, so keep your eyes peeled!


Image: Karel Schrijver, Lockheed Martin SAL

Posted by: Liz Nealon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: science news, Astronomy, Aurora Borealis, Northern Lights, Space Weather   •  Permalink (link to this article)

August 3, 2010

We have a link to a 7-second video, recorded by extreme UV cameras onboard the Solar Dynamics Observatory. It shows an enormous magnetic filament breaking away from the sun. Some of this breakaway material is now en route to Earth in the form of a coronal mass ejection (CME). Click on this link to view.

As we noted yesterday, this "solar wind" may result in auroras, or an opportunity to view the Northern Lights from higher latitudes. Be on the lookout starting early tomorrow morning!

The Sun has constant nuclear explosions at its core, underneath the sea of boiling gases that form its surface. You can read more about the star at the center of our solar system in my book of the same name.


Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: Aurora Borealis, Solar System, sun, Northern Lights   •  Permalink (link to this article)

August 2, 2010

Have you ever seen the Northern Lights, formally known as the Aurora Borealis, leap in the northern sky? The French scientist Pierre Gassendi gave this phenomenon its name in 1621, combining the name of the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, with the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas.

You never know exactly when the Aurora Borealis is going to be visible because these spectacular light shows are the result of space weather - including the eruption of solar flares. Early yesterday morning (August 1), NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory recorded what they called "a complex global disturbance involving almost the entire Earth-facing side of the sun."  The event included a long-duration C3-class solar flare, what called a "solar tsunami."

These blasts have created a coronal mass ejection (CME) that is heading toward Earth.  It may be possible, especially in northern latitudes, to see the Northern Lights when the cloud arrives. It takes two days for the "solar wind" to reach Earth, so tomorrow night is the time to look to the northern skies.  

We have been in a quiet period since 2007, with little solar activity dramatic enough to cause auroras. Readers in the Northern Hemisphere, particularly those at higher latitudes, I hope we’ll break the streak and see a great show this week!

If you’re interested in learning more about this topic, the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska/Fairbanks has an excellent FAQ page with many photographs of auroras, as well as diagrams showing clearly how they occur, and why.



Posted by: Seymour Simon

(5) Comments  •   Labels: Aurora Borealis, Solar System, Northern Lights, Space Weather   •  Permalink (link to this article)