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Saturday 7 July 2012

Lights in the sky.....

How's my blogging? Leave some feedback, I get better at this, you get a more interesting read!

As I mentioned yesterday, the Sun has been acting up a bit. It has a cluster of sunspots belching out M-class flares [1]. These don't just produce intense bursts of X-rays, they can throw out massive clouds of ionised particles, moving  at up to three thousand kilometres a second.

The magnetic field of Earth protects us, by diverting these particles - a coronal mass ejection [2]- away from lower latitudes and towards the poles*. When these high energy particle hit the upper atmosphere over the poles they excite the tenuous gas up there, which glows....An aurora.

On January the 26th of this year Earth ran through a big CME, and because we live in an age of space travel, we got to see the resulting light show both from below.....

Video above: The geomagnetic storm [3] set off by the January 26 CME, as seen from. Images courtesy of Chad Blakley.

....and from above.....

Video above: The same storm seen from the international space station. Video courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center.

Set both videos running at once: A natural wonder from above and below at the same time...... and, yes, I realise that this post wasn't solar system history related at all. But don't tell me vast ribbons of glowing green plasma in the sky aren't worth writing about....

* Yes, that's a massive oversimplification. That's the basic idea though, and I have to go pick up my daughter now.... go do some googleing, there's lots and lots on the subject out there, and it's well worth learning!

List of links: 
[2]">coronal mass ejection 

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