The Sun’s paintbrush

It’s on my life bucket list to see the Aurora Borealis or Aurora Australis.  This week, a CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) hit Earth’s magnetic field, causing a beautiful light show as far south as Lithuania.  What makes the lights colorful?  Basically, solar wind from the sun collides with the Earth’s magnetic field.  The magnetic field is weaker in the poles and high latitudes, so some of the Sun’s charged particles get in and stir up excitement.  The excited gas molecules in our atmosphere emit light:  Low altitude oxygen emits green, high altitude oxygen emits red, low altitude nitrogen emits blue, and high altitude nitrogen emits purple.

Here are some pictures of this week’s light show, including one from astronaut Reid Wiseman on the International Space Station!  Check out this site for aurora forecasts: http://www.aurora-service.eu/aurora-forecast/

 

Lights in Vabalninkas, Lithuania, Credit: Tadas Janušonis and spaceweather.com

Lights in Vabalninkas, Lithuania, Credit: Tadas Janušonis and spaceweather.com

 

Aurora Borealis from the International Space Station, Credit: https://twitter.com/astro_reid/status/501867289910992897/photo/1

Aurora Borealis from the International Space Station, Credit: https://twitter.com/astro_reid/status/501867289910992897/photo/1

Aurora forecast August 21, 2014, Credit: http://www.aurora-service.eu/aurora-forecast/

Aurora forecast August 21, 2014, Credit: http://www.aurora-service.eu/aurora-forecast/

Lights in Kuusalu,Harjumaa,Estonia, Credit: Jüri Voit and spaceweathergallery.com

Lights in Kuusalu,Harjumaa,Estonia, Credit: Jüri Voit and spaceweathergallery.com

 

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