This is a copy of the notes that Walt Farmer gave me to accompany the pictures I showed at the Jackson Amateur Radio Operators convention. I clearly omitted some of the text (I hate just reading notes to an audience), misread other stuff, and ad libbed outrageously. That I could give the presentation at all is due to all the hard work that Walt put into finding and organizing these pictures.
The actual pictures are available by clicking on the links and also contained in the directory “combined”. You should be able to download them by clicking here
Many thanks to Walt (happy 60th birthday) for putting this all together
Also thanks to the audience members for their attention, and the warm welcome they gave both me and Liberty (my daughter) who ran the slideshow from the computer.
Victor A. Wagner Jr.
August 18, 1999 - Sun Block
Explanation: During a total solar eclipse, Earth's moon blocks the sun - almost exactly. While the sun is about 400 times wider than the moon, it is also about 400 times farther away and each appears to be half a degree or so in diameter. On August 11, this remarkable coincidence in the apparent size of two vastly different celestial bodies produced tantalizing solar spectacles for denizens of Europe and Asia. For example, prominences along the sun's limb peer around the moon's dark edge in this dramatic picture of totality recorded as the lunar shadow swept across Hungary. Subtle structures in the sun's inner corona are also visible streaming beyond the silhouetted moon. This total eclipse of the sun was the last to grace planet Earth's skies for the last millennium.
2003 November 22 - Moon AND Sun
Explanation: This composite image was made from 22 separate pictures of the Moon and Sun all taken from Chisamba, Zambia during the total phase of the 2001 June 21 solar eclipse. The multiple exposures were digitally processed and combined to simultaneously show a wealth of detail which no single camera exposure or naked-eye observation could easily reveal. Most striking are the incredible flowing streamers of the Sun's outer atmosphere or solar corona, notoriously difficult to see except when the new Moon blocks the bright solar disk. Features on the darkened near side of the Moon can also be made out, illuminated by sunlight reflected from a full Earth. A giant solar prominence seems to hang just beyond the Moon's eastern (left) edge while about one diameter farther east of the eclipsed Sun is the relatively faint (4th magnitude) star 1 Geminorum.
2005 October 5 - An Annular Solar Eclipse at High Resolution
Explanation: On Monday, part of the Sun went missing. The missing piece was no cause for concern -- the Moon was only momentarily in the way. The event was not a total eclipse of the Sun for any Earth-bound sky enthusiast but rather, at best, an annular eclipse, where the Moon blocked most of the Sun. Because of the relatively large distance to the Moon during this Earth-Moon-Sun alignment, the Moon did not have a large enough angular size to block the entire Sun. Those who witnessed the solar eclipse from a narrow path through Portugal, Spain and Africa, however, were lucky enough to see the coveted Ring of Fire, a dark Moon completely surrounded by the brilliant light of the distant Sun. Pictured above is a Ring of Fire captured in unusually high resolution above Spain. The resulting image shows details of the granular solar surface as well as many prominences around the Sun.
2006 April 7 - The Crown of the Sun
Explanation: During a total solar eclipse, the Sun's extensive outer atmosphere or corona is an awesome and inspirational sight. The subtle shades and shimmering features of the corona that engage the eye span a brightness range of over 10,000 to 1, making them notoriously difficult to capture in a single picture. But this composite of 33 digital images ranging in exposure time from 1/8000 to 1/5 second comes very close to revealing the crown of the Sun in all its glory. The telescopic views were recorded from Side, Turkey during the March 29 solar eclipse, a geocentric celestial event that was widely seen under nearly ideal conditions. The composite also captures a pinkish prominence extending just beyond the upper edge of the eclipsed sun.
June 16, 1998 - An Active Region of the Sun
Explanation: The Sun is a busy place. This false-color image depicts an active region near an edge of the Sun. Hot plasma is seen exploding off the Sun's photosphere and traveling along loops defined by the Sun's magnetic field. The red regions are particularly hot, indicating that some magnetic field loops carry hotter gas than others. These active loops were so large that the Earth could easily fit under one. The TRACE satellite was launched in April 1998 with plans to continue high-resolution imaging as the Sun passes Solar Maximum in 2001.
2004 December 6 - Filaments Across the Sun
Explanation: Two unusually long filaments crossed part of the Sun last week. The filaments are actually relatively cool and dark prominences of solar plasma held up by the Sun's magnetic field but seen against the face of the Sun. Filaments typically last a few weeks before falling back. Pictured above, the two filaments are visible on the Sun's right side. It would take twenty Earths, set end-to-end, to match the length of one of the filaments. Also visible are bright hot regions called plages and a carpet of hundreds of granules that provide the Sun's texture. The above image was taken through a small telescope in a very specific color of light emitted primarily by hydrogen.
2004 July 25 - A Solar Filament Lifts Off
Explanation: Hot gas frequently erupts from the Sun. One such eruption produced the glowing filament pictured above, which was captured in 2000 July by the Earth-orbiting TRACE satellite. The filament, although small compared to the overall size of the Sun, measures over 100,000 kilometers in height, so that the entire Earth could easily fit into its outstretched arms. Gas in the filament is funneled by the complex and changing magnetic field of the Sun. After lifting off from the Sun's surface, most of the filamentary gas will eventually fall back. More powerful solar eruptions emit particles that reach the Earth and can disrupt manmade satellites. The cause and nature of solar eruptions are the topic of much research.
2004 August 2 - Spicules: Jets on the Sun
Explanation: Imagine a pipe as wide as a state and as long as half the Earth. Now imagine that this pipe is filled with hot gas moving 50,000 kilometers per hour. Further imagine that this pipe is not made of metal but a transparent magnetic field. You are envisioning just one of thousands of young spicules on the active Sun. Pictured above is perhaps the highest resolution image yet of these enigmatic solar flux tubes. Spicules dot the above frame of solar active region 10380 that crossed the Sun in June, but are particularly evident as a carpet of dark tubes on the right. Time-sequenced images have recently shown that spicules last about five minutes, starting out as tall tubes of rapidly rising gas but eventually fading as the gas peaks and falls back down to the Sun. These images also indicate, for the first time, that the ultimate cause of spicules is sound-like waves that flow over the Sun's surface but leak into the Sun's atmosphere.
April 30, 1999 - Solar Shock Wave
Explanation: On September 24, 1997 a shock wave blasted across the surface of the sun at speeds of 250 to 600 kilometers per second. On planet Earth, observer Barry Reynolds photographed the expanding shock front (left) in the light emitted by hydrogen atoms at the solar surface. His discovery image was nicely confirmed by a space-based extreme ultraviolet image (right) of the shock ramming through the sun's upper atmosphere as recorded by the SOHO satellite observatory. In both pictures a bright solar flare is seen near the center of a circular arc-like feature representing a shock front. The shock front is dark in the ground based photo and bright in the ultraviolet image. These shock fronts are believed to be tracers of a 3-dimensional disturbance caused by the flare but researchers are uncertain as to the exact physical mechanisms which produced it. Along with other violent events called coronal mass ejections, solar flares are known to generate streams of energetic particles which can affect the Earth's magnetosphere and Earth orbiting satellites.
Gawxcompar.gif is 2 images of the sun, taken at the same time, in the xray spectrum & in white light. Spots can easily be seen in white light.
2003 October 29 - A Powerful Solar Flare
Explanation: Yesterday, our Sun produced one of the most powerful solar flares in recorded history. Seen across the electromagnetic spectrum, the Sun briefly became over 100 times brighter in X-rays than normal. Over the next few days, as energetic particles emitted from these regions strike the Earth, satellite communications might be affected and auroras might develop. The flare and resulting CME, emitted from giant sunspot group 10486, was captured above as it happened by the by the LASCO instrument aboard the Sun-orbiting SOHO satellite. The disk of the Sun is covered to accentuate surrounding areas. The time-lapse movie shows the tremendous explosion in frames separated in real time by about 30 minutes each. The frames appear progressively noisier as protons from the flare begin to strike the detector. The SOHO satellite has been put in a temporary safe mode to avoid damage from the solar particle storm.
2002 May 16 - Double Trouble Solar Bubbles
Explanation: During April and May, attention has been focused on the western evening sky, presenting its spectacle of bright planets and crescent moons shortly after sunset. Meanwhile, the Sun itself has not been just sinking quietly below the horizon. For example on May 2nd, two enormous clouds of energetic particles blasted away from the solar surface in nearly simultaneous eruptions. Known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), they appear as large "bubbles" oriented at about 2 o'clock and 8 o'clock in this composite image from cameras onboard the sun-staring SOHO spacecraft. At picture center, an extreme ultraviolet image of the Sun recorded near the time of these eruptions has been superimposed for scale. The blank region surrounding it corresponds to an occulting disk in one of SOHO's coronagraphic cameras. Speeding outward at millions of kilometers per hour, these two CMEs missed our fair planet. But those that do impact Earth's magnetosphere often trigger auroral displays and disruptions.
2003 October 27 - Large Sunspot Groups 10484 and 10486
Explanation: Two unusually large sunspot groups are now crossing the face of the Sun. Each group, roughly the size of Jupiter, is unusual not only for its size but because it is appearing over three years after solar maximum, the peak of solar surface activity. Sunspot group 10484 appears near the image center, while sunspot group 10486 is just coming over the left limb of the Sun. The active region associated with Sunspot 484 (the shorter nickname) has already jettisoned a large coronal mass ejection (CME) of particles out into the Solar System. When striking Earth, radiation of this sort has the power to interrupt normal satellite operations while simultaneously providing beautiful auroras. Rotating with the Sun, sunspots 484 and 486 will take about 30 days to make one complete circle, slowly evolving in size and shape during this time. After using extreme care never to look directly at the Sun, the above image was created by holding a digital camera up to a small telescope.
2001 April 11 - Large Sunspot Group AR 9393
Explanation: The largest sunspot group of the past ten years crossed the surface of the Sun late last month and early this month. The group was designated Active Region 9393 as it was the 9393rd region identified since counting officially began in 1973. The number of active regions on the Sun is high recently because the Sun is reaching the maximum of its current 11-year cycle of magnetic activity. The above time-lapse sequence shows AR 9393 as it evolved from 27 March to April 2 to become over 10 times larger than our Earth. Just after the end of the movie, on April 2, AR 9393 unleashed the largest solar flare of the last 25 years. Luckily, the flare was not pointed toward the Earth, or flare particles might have damaged satellites or even caused local electrical blackouts. Yesterday morning, however, a less powerful flare was ejected from a different sunspot group (AR 9415) toward Earth that has already caused radio interference.
2004 July 26 - A Large Active Region Crosses the Sun
Explanation: An unexpectedly large sunspot region is now crossing the Sun. The active region is home to rivers of hot plasma, explosive flares, strong magnetic fields, a powerful Coronal Mass Ejection (CME), and a sunspot group so large it can be seen by the protected eye without magnification. In fact, this region appears larger than Venus did when it crossed the Sun last month.Pictured above is a close-up of this sunspot group. Energetic ions from sunspot group 652 continue to impact the Earth and create rare purple auroras.
2005 February 16 - Sunspot Metamorphosis: From Bottom to Top
Explanation: Sunspots -- magnets the size of the Earth -- are normally seen flat on the Sun. The above digital metamorphosis, however, shows a sunspot as it appears at increasing heights, effectively in three dimensions. The above false-colored image sequence of solar active region AR 10675 was taken in three very specific colors that effectively isolate different layers above the solar surface. The first images show the Sun's photospheric surface as it normally appears, covered with granules. The large dark sunspot sports a clear dark umbra in the center surrounded by a lighter penumbra. Images appearing toward the middle of the sequence show the Sun as in light predominantly emitted a few hundred kilometers above the photosphere. At this height, the continent sized bubbling granules appear reversed, and long lines of constant magnetic force begin to appear. The last images show the Sun at a few thousand kilometers into the chromosphere. Here magnetic field lines can be clearly followed outward from the sunspot to distant regions.
2005 November 6 -A Sunspot Up Close
Explanation: Why would a small part of the Sun appear slightly dark? Visible above is a close-up picture of a sunspot, a depression on the Sun's face that is slightly cooler and less luminous than the rest of the Sun. The Sun's complex magnetic field creates this cool region by inhibiting hot material from entering the spot. Sunspots can be larger than the Earth and typically last for only a few days. This high-resolution picture also shows clearly that the Sun's face is a bubbling sea of separate cells of hot gas. These cells are known as granules. A solar granule is about 1000 kilometers across and lasts about 10 minutes. After that, many granules end up exploding.
2002 November 14 - The Sharpest View of the Sun
Explanation: This stunning image shows remarkable and mysterious details near the dark central region of a planet-sized sunspot in one of the sharpest views ever of the surface of the Sun. Just released, the picture was made using the Swedish Solar Telescope now in its first year of operation on the Canary Island of La Palma. Along with features described as hairs and canals are dark cores visible within the bright filaments that extend into the sunspot, representing previously unknown and unexplored solar phenomena. The filaments' newly revealed dark cores are seen to be thousands of kilometers long but only about 100 kilometers wide. Resolving features 100 kilometers wide or less is a milestone in solar astronomy and has been achieved here using sophisticated adaptive optics, digital image stacking, and processing techniques to counter the blurring effect of Earth's atmosphere. At optical wavelengths, these images are sharper than even current space-based solar observatories can produce. Recorded on 15 July 2002, the sunspot shown is the largest of the group of sunspots cataloged as solar active region AR 10030.
Iqspotgraph is a display of the sunspot cycle: 5.5 yrs. to 11 yrs. to 22 yrs. for magnetic polar reversal.
2003 February 23 - A Twisted Solar Eruptive Prominence
Explanation: A huge eruptive prominence is seen moving out from our Sun in this condensed half-hour time-lapse sequence. Ten Earths could easily fit in the "claw" of this seemingly solar monster. This large prominence, though, is significant not only for its size, but its shape. The twisted figure eight shape indicates that a complex magnetic field threads through the emerging solar particles. Recent evidence of differential rotation inside the Sun might help account for the surface explosion. The sequence was taken early in the year 2000 by the Sun-orbiting SOHO satellite. Although large prominences and energetic Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs) are relatively rare, they are occurred more frequently near Solar Maximum, the time of peak sunspot and solar activity in the eleven-year solar cycle.
2004 March 30 - A Prominent Solar Prominence from SOHO
Explanation: One of the most spectacular solar sights is a prominence. A solar prominence is a cloud of solar gas held above the Sun's surface by the Sun's magnetic field. Last month, NASA's Sun-orbiting SOHO spacecraft imaged an impressively large prominence hovering over the surface, pictured above. The Earth would easily fit under the hovering curtain of hot gas. A quiescent prominence typically lasts about a month, and may erupt in a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) expelling hot gas into the Solar System. Although somehow related to the Sun's changing magnetic field, the energy mechanism that creates and sustains a Solar prominence is still a topic of research.
2005 November 9 - A Solar Prominence from SOHO
Explanation: What happened to the Sun? Nothing very unusual: the strange-looking solar appendage on the lower left is actually just a spectacular looking version of a common solar prominence. A solar prominence is a cloud of solar gas held above the Sun's surface by the Sun's magnetic field. Pictured above in 2002 October, NASA's Sun-orbiting SOHO spacecraft imaged an impressively large prominence hovering over the surface, informally dubbed a flame. Over 40 Earths could line up along the vast length of the fireless flame of hovering hot gas. A quiescent prominence typically lasts about a month, and may erupt in a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) expelling hot gas into the Solar System. Although somehow related to the Sun's changing magnetic field, the energy mechanism that creates and sustains a Solar prominence is still a topic of research.
2003 July 7 - At the Edge of the Sun
Explanation: Dramatic prominences can sometimes be seen looming just beyond the edge of the sun. A solar prominence is a cloud of solar gas held just above the surface by the Sun's magnetic field. The Earth would easily fit below the prominence on the left. A quiescent prominence typically lasts about a month, and may erupt in a Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) expelling hot gas into the Solar System. Although very hot, prominences typically appear dark when viewed against the Sun, since they are slightly cooler than the surface. The above image in false color was taken from Stuttgart, Germany with an amateur telescope and camera.
2000 September 28 - Heating Coronal Loops
Explanation: Extending above the photosphere or visible surface of the Sun, the faint, tenuous solar corona can't be easily seen from Earth, but it is measured to be hundreds of times hotter than the photosphere itself. What makes the solar corona so hot? Astronomers have long sought the source of the corona's heat in magnetic fields which loft monstrous loops of solar plasma above the photosphere. Still, new and dramatically detailed observations of coronal loops from the orbiting TRACE satellite are now pointing more closely to the unidentified energy source. Recorded in extreme ultraviolet light, this and other TRACE images indicate that most of the heating occurs low in the corona, near the bases of the loops as they emerge from and return to the solar surface. The new results confound the conventional theory which relies on heating the loops uniformly. This tantalizing TRACE image shows clusters of the majestic, hot coronal loops which span 30 or more times the diameter of planet Earth.
2000 June 8 - Active Regions, CMEs, and X Class Flares
Explanation: Space Weather forcasters are predicting major storm conditions over the next few days as the active Sun has produced at least three strong flares and a large coronal mass ejection (CME) since Tuesday, June 6th. This recent false color X-ray image of the Sun shows the active region generating the explosive events, here the Sun's most intense source of X-rays, as the dominant bright area just above center. X-ray hot plasma suspended in looping magnetic fields arcs above this region, cataloged as AR9026. AR9026 appears as a large group of sunspots in visible light images. The three intense flares were all X-class events, the most severe class of solar flares based on X-ray flux measurements by the earth-orbiting GOES satellites. Energetic particles from the CME, associated with the second X-class flare, were directed toward planet Earth and could produce geomagnetic storms as early as today. Possible effects range from increased auroral displays to disruptions of satellite and communications systems and electrical power grids.
2000 March 9 - Sun Storm: A Coronal Mass Ejection
Explanation: Late last month another erupting filament lifted off the active solar surface and blasted this enormous bubble of magnetic plasma into space. Direct light from the sun is blocked in this picture of the event with the sun's relative position and size indicated by a white half circle at bottom center. The field of view extends 2 million kilometers or more from the solar surface. While hints of these explosive events, called coronal mass ejections or CMEs, were discovered by spacecraft in the early 70s this dramatic image is part of a detailed record of this CME's development from the presently operating SOlar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft. Near the minimum of the solar activity cycle CMEs occur about once a week, but as we approach solar maximum rates of two or more per day are anticipated. Though this CME was clearly not headed for Earth, strong CMEs are seen to profoundly influence space weather, and those directed toward our planet and can have serious effects.
Next two images use the same description..
January 23, 1998 - Jovian Aurora
Explanation: These two recently released Hubble Space Telescope close-ups show the Northern and Southern lights ... on Jupiter. Like aurora on Earth, these Jovian aurora are caused by charged particles funneled into the atmosphere above the planet's North (right) and South poles by magnetic fields. But Jupiter's magnetic field is extremely large and ionized material expelled from the volcanic moon Io is trapped in it creating light shows 1,000 times more intense than Earth's auroral storms. Charged particles released by Io are also funneled along magnetic flux tubes which form a direct "bridge" to the Jovian atmosphere. The result is auroral hot spots - magnetic footprints 600 or more miles across which race over Jupiter's cloud tops. A hot spot is visible in both images as a comet-like feature just outside the polar auroral rings. In these false color ultraviolet images, Jupiter's limb (edge) appears dull brown while the auroral displays are shades of white and blue.
January 9, 1998 - Saturnian Aurora
Explanation: Girdling the second largest planet in the Solar System, Saturn's Rings are one of the most spectacular sights for earthbound telescopes. This recently released image, from the orbiting Hubble Space Telescope's STIS instrument, offers a striking view of another kind of ring around Saturn - pole encircling rings of ultraviolet aurora. Towering more than 1,000 miles above the cloud tops, these Saturnian auroral displays are analogous to Earth's. Energetic charged particles in the Solar Wind are funneled by the planet's magnetic field into polar regions where they interact with atmospheric gases. Following the ebb and flow of Saturn's aurora, researchers can remotely explore the planet's atmosphere and magnetic field. In this false color image, the dramatic red aurora identify emission from atomic hydrogen, while the more concentrated white areas are due to hydrogen molecules. In 2004, NASA began making close-up studies of the Saturnian system with the Cassini Spacecraft
December 30, 1996 - X-Ray Earth
Explanation: The Earth glows in many kinds of light, including the energetic X-ray band. Actually, the Earth itself does not glow - only aurora produced high in the Earth's atmosphere. Above is the first picture of the Earth in X-rays, taken in March with the orbiting Polar satellite. Bright X-ray emission is shown in red. Energetic ions from the Sun cause aurora and energize electrons in the Earth's magnetosphere. These electrons move along the Earth's magnetic field and eventually strike the Earth's ionosphere, causing the X-ray emission. These X-rays are not dangerous because they are absorbed by lower parts of the Earth's atmosphere.
2004 July 30 - Northern Lights
Explanation: While enjoying the spaceweather on a gorgeous summer evening in mid-July, astronomer Philippe Moussette captured this colorful fish-eye lens view looking north from the Observatoire Mont Cosmos, Quebec, Canada, planet Earth. In the foreground, lights along the northern horizon give an orange cast to the low clouds. But far above the clouds, at altitudes of 100 kilometers or more, are alluring green and purple hues of the aurora borealis or northern lights, a glow powered by energetic particles at the edge of space. In the background are familiar stars of the northern sky. In particular, that famous celestial kitchen utensil, the Big Dipper (left), and the W-shaped constellation Cassiopeia (right) are easy to spot. Then, just follow the pointer stars of the Big Dipper to Polaris, perhaps the most famous northern light of all.
2002 October 31 - Aurora in the Night
Explanation: Traveling shock waves from the Sun and solar wind gusts have buffeted planet Earth's magnetosphere. As a result, skywatchers at high latitudes in the northern hemisphere were treated to many displays of the aurora borealis or northern lights. For example, on the first of October this particularly ghostly apparition was photographed looming above the horizon near the town of Inari in northern Finnish Lapland.
2004 November 9 - A Full Sky Multicolored Auroral Corona
Explanation: On some nights the sky is the most interesting show in town. This fisheye picture captures a particularly active and colorful auroral corona that occurred two days ago over l'Observatoire de la Decouverte in Val Belair near Quebec, Canada. The above spectacular aurora has an unusually high degree of detail, range of colors, and breadth across the sky. The vivid green, red, and blue auroral colors are likely caused by high atmospheric oxygen and hydrogen reacting to incoming electrons. The trigger events were magnetically induced explosions on the Sun.
2005 August 7 - Dueling Auroras
Explanation: Will it be curtains for one of these auroras? A quick inspection indicates that it is curtains for both, as the designation "curtains" well categorizes the type of aurora pattern pictured. Another (informal) type is the corona. The above auroras resulted from outbursts of ionic particles from the Sun during the last week of 2001 September. A polarity change in the solar magnetic field at the Earth then triggered auroras. The above picture was taken on 2001 October 3 as fleeting space radiation pelted the Earth's atmosphere high above the Yukon in Canada.
2000 August 17 - Mount Megantic Magnetic Storm
Explanation: Plasma from the Sun and debris from a comet both collided with planet Earth last Saturday morning triggering magnetic storms and a meteor shower in a dazzling atmospheric spectacle. The debris stream from comet Swift-Tuttle is anticipated yearly, and many skygazers already planned to watch the peak of the annual Perseids meteor shower in the dark hours of August 11/12. But the simultaneous, widely reported auroras were triggered by the chance arrival of something much less predictable -- a solar coronal mass ejection. This massive bubble of energetic plasma was seen leaving the active Sun's surface just in time to travel to Earth and disrupt the planet's magnetic field triggering extensive auroras during the meteor shower's peak! Inspired by the cosmic light show, Sebastien Gauthier photographed the colorful auroral displays.
2003 November 13 - Aurora Oklahoma
Explanation: Nestled in the central US, the state of Oklahoma is noted for its gorgeous prairie skies and wide-open spaces, but not for frequent visitations of the northern lights. Still, following the intense solar activity late last month, aurora did come sweeping down the Oklahoma plains and skywatcher Dave Ewoldt managed to catch up with this photogenic apparition 40 miles northwest of Oklahoma City at about 3am CST. Anticipating aurora sightings, Ewoldt had spent the evening photographing nighttime views of small towns in the area while keeping an eye toward the north. He reports, "I was just about ready to call it a night when the show started. When it did, it was like someone turned on a lightswitch. I wish it would have lasted longer... [it] seemed like it was completely done in about 25 minutes." Watery reflections of the colorful show highlight the foreground in the stunning image while stars of the Big Dipper and the northern sky shine behind the dazzling Oklahoma auroral display.
2002 October 15 - Aurora's Ring
Explanation: Gusting solar winds and blasts of charged particles from the Sun made the early days of October rewarding ones for those anticipating auroras. While out enjoying the stormy space weather from Toemmeraas, Norway, Trygve Lindersen recorded this picturesque apparition of the northern lights with a digital camera on October 6. From this perspective, the curtains of green light formed a ring which seemed to hover, wraithlike, just above the foreground trees. But the ring of light was actually 100 kilometers or more above the trees and the greenish glow produced by oxygen molecules interacting with energetic electrons and fluorescing near the edge of space.
2005 November 5 - Aurora from Space
Explanation: From the ground, spectacular auroras seem to dance high above. But the International Space Station (ISS) orbits at nearly the same height as many auroras, sometimes passing over them, and sometimes right through them. Still, the auroral electron and proton streams pose no direct danger to the ISS. In 2003, ISS Science Officer Don Pettit captured the green aurora, pictured above in a digitally sharpened image. From orbit, Pettit reported that changing auroras appeared to crawl around like giant green amoebas. Over 300 kilometers below, the Manicouagan Impact Crater can be seen in northern Canada, planet Earth.
2003 August 9 - A Perseid Aurora
Explanation: Just after the Moon set but before the Sun rose in the early morning hours of 2000 August 12, meteors pelted the Earth from the direction of the constellation Perseus, while ions pelted the Earth from the Sun. The meteors were expected as sub-sand grains long left behind by Comet Swift-Tuttle annually create the Perseids Meteor Shower. The aurorae were unexpected, however, as electrons, protons, and heavier ions raced out from a large Coronal Mass Ejection that had occurred just days before on the Sun. In the foreground is Hahn's Peak, an extinct volcano in Colorado, USA.
Note that this year’s Perseid meteor shower will peak on the evenings on Aug. 11 & Aug. 12. Although the moon will be bright this year, prominent meteors known as fireballs or bolides, will still be visible, and oftentimes, spectacular.
2002 April 22 - Comet and Aurora Over Alaska
Explanation: Can you spot the comet? Flowing across the frozen Alaskan landscape is an easily visible, colorful aurora. Just to the lower left, however, well in the background, is something harder to spot: Comet Ikeya-Zhang, the brightest comet of recent years. Although the aurora faded in minutes, the comet is just now beginning to fade. It remains just barely visible without aid, however, before sunrise in the East. The comet is actually a giant dirt-covered snowball that spends most of its time in the outer Solar System -- to where it is now returns. The above photograph was taken on March 20 when Comet Ikeya-Zhang was near its brightest. Careful inspection of the photo will uncover several other sky delights, including the giant galaxy M31.
Tb1: Aurora over the Tetons shot by Ron Sprouse in 2004.
VaWalta2: Aurora over the Tetons shot by Walt Farmer from his driveway next to the Jackson Hole airport in 2001.