Aurora in the Sky with Diamonds
April 15, 1997
Astronomers observed a giant eruption of material on the Sun early last week heading for the Earth. Detected by NASA's Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO), the million-mile per hour stream of particles that slammed into the Earth produced a spectacular aurora, or "Northern Lights" display. Solar eruptions can cause a brilliant Earthly aurora that lasts for days, and this eruption did just that.
Scientists at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center watched the Northern Lights in real-time with the Ultraviolet Imager Experiment aboard the POLAR spacecraft. The current auroral pictures are posted as they are received from the instrument.
This image shows auroral activity was high on April 10, about 9 p.m. CDT over Hudson Bay and eastern Canada. The north pole is in the lower right quadrant of the image; Greenland is at the bottom.
Quicktime, AVI, and animated GIF format movies
Note on the movies: All the movies show auroral activity from April 10, 19:03:02 UT to April 11, 05:55:01 UT (about 11 hours elapsed time). The movies show Earth's continental outlines; in the first frame, Greenland is visible at approximately one o'clock. The color table used for display is black-blue-green-red (less to more intense activity). The highly elliptical orbit of the POLAR spacecraft is apparent near the end of the movie, as the aurora disappears over the limb of the Earth, the Gulf of Mexico comes into view and the Earth gets noticeably closer.
Full resolution movie frames are approximately 5 minutes apart in real time; compressed movie frames are are approximately 15 minutes apart in real time.
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