When a solar flare filled with charged particles erupts from the sun, its magnetic fields sometime break a widely accepted rule of physics. The flux-freezing theorem dictates that the magnetic lines of force should flow away in lock-step with the particles, whole and unbroken. Instead, the lines sometimes break apart and quickly reconnect in a way that has mystified astrophysicists.
Last week, days after the sun released a massive burst of solar wind and magnetic fields toward Earth, the particles collided with our planet’s magnetic field. When the two smash together, they create these amazing displays in the sky.
Green is the most common auroral color, according to Northern Lights Centre.
A pale yellowish-green, is produced by oxygen molecules located about 60 miles above the earth. Rare, all-red auroras are produced by high-altitude oxygen, at heights of up to 200 miles. Nitrogen produces blue or purplish-red aurora.
The above photograph, courtesy of NASA, was taken over Marquette, Mich., on May 18. Image by Amy Cherrette
It’s been awhile since I posted anything about solar flares. (Though, it’s also been awhile since I’ve written about anything in general … Hopefully the astronomy news hanging out in the dark tunnels of my email archive will soon see the light.) Anyway, here’s a video of X-Class solar flares, a first for 2013.
The video was taken earlier this month when, within a 24-hour time period, the sun emitted three fairly large flares.
Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, has died. He was 82.
Here’s a video of the historic July 20, 1969 descent onto the moon.
This is the second time in a little over a month that the science community has lost a historic figure in space flight history. Sally Ride – the first American woman in space – died on July 23 at the age of 61.
This week has been all about Mars and the Curiosity rover. We’ve posted lots of images taken on the Martian surface this week including a pretty awesome color panorama. We’ve selected a new image as our Photo of the Week as it shows the left side of Curiosity, blast marks from the mission’s descent stage and the rim of the Gale Crater.
We’re loving all these photographs! Curiosity, the Mars rover that landed on the red planet just three days ago, has been snapping away and feeding our obsession with this amazing NASA mission. For the next 23 months, the rover will analyze rock and ground samples in the fascinating Gale Crater to see if it had, or still has, conditions that are favorable to microbial life.
The panorama above, which was taken today, is made up of 130 images. According to NASA, the image was brightened a bit as Mars receives only half the sunlight Earth does.
Here’s a closer look at a portion of the shot:
We can’t wait to see a closeup of the mountain’s summit!