Label: Space Weather

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)

December 1, 2011

Thursday is COOL VIDEO OF THE WEEK day on the Seymour Science blog. Since we’ve been talking about Mars all week long, we thought our video should continue that theme.

This video is a little different than the ones we usually choose. In this case, you have to look really hard to spot a tiny light, moving quickly upward through the night sky (in the center of the screen).

See it?

This video shows the newest Mars explorer craft departing Earth shortly after its launch on November 26. 

The spacecraft is carrying a car-sized robot rover named Curiosity. Scientists hope that information sent back by Curiosity will help them learn a lot more about Mars. They will also be getting critical information that will help them plan for an eventual human mission to the Red Planet.

I love watching the sky and seeing manmade spacecraft passing overhead. Every time I see the International Space Station (ISS) move across the night sky, I applaud as it exits my field of vision. The thought that there are brave human beings far overhead, exploring space and the possibilities of our Solar System, just thrills me. Do you think that one day that we’ll be able to look up in the sky and know that there are humans on their way to Mars? I hope so!

By the way, if you are as interested as I am in seeing the ISS and other satellites in orbit, has an easy-to-use page where you enter your zip code and get schedule for when you can spot these magnificent flybys. You don’t even need a telescope - just clear skies and your own two eyes! 

Video: Gerhard Dangl

Photo: An artist’s concept illustrates what the Mars rover Curiosity will look like on Mars. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. 

Posted by: Seymour Simon

(1) Comments  •   Labels: science news, space, Video, Space Travel, Exploration, Space Weather   •  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 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)