The Ultraviolet Imager on NASA's polar spacecraft captured dramatic images this morning of an aurora borealis in progress over the northern United States. Aurorae -- sometimes called Northern Lights -- are luminous multi-colored curtains of light most often seen in the skies at very high northern and southern latitudes. They occur because Earth's magnetic field interacts with the solar wind, a tenuous mix of charged particles blowing away from the sun. Auroral light results from electrons and protons striking molecules in the Earth's upper atmosphere.
Right: These images were captured by the Ultraviolet Imager on NASA's Polar spacecraft's on Friday, October 22. They show UV emissions from aurora borealis during a strong geomagnetic storm. Click for a. For movies of last night's aurora as seen by the visible camera on Polar click here.
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Indeed, it appears that many observers did spot the Northern Lights early this morning. The Solar Terrestrial Dispatch reports widespread sightings ranging from Washington State in the west to New York in the east, and as far south as Ohio. Click for the latest reports.
Gary Heckman, a space weather forecaster at NOAA's Space Environment Center says it's hard to predict whether the auroral activity will continue through the night of October 22, but for residents of the northern US it's worth taking a look. Tonight's bright full moon could make faint auroral emissions difficult to see, but strong auroral activity might be visible despite lunar interference. The best time to observe is near local midnight.
|Parents and Educators: Please visit Thursday's Classroom for lesson plans and activities related to this story.|
For more information about space weather and current solar activity, including official alerts, warnings, and forecasts, please see NOAA's Space Environment Center web site at http://www.sec.noaa.gov/.
Movies of last night's aurora as seen by the visible camera onboard POLAR
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Recent stories on the August '99 Eclipse
Allais Experiment Update - October 12, 1999, At any given spot along its path, the Aug. 11, 1999, total eclipse offered up to 2-1/2 spectacular minutes of total lunar coverage of the sun. But for two NASA researchers, the show's not over. They're just getting started probing a 50-year-old mystery.
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Peering through a Hole in the Sky - June 17, 1999 story on exotic gravity measurements to be carried out during the eclipse
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|Author: Dr. Tony Phillips
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