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SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Prairie Light: Alberta Aurora

By Phil Plait

Every now and again my work piles up and I can feel that edge of panic start to set in.

Then I saw a video and my brain let out a nice long sigh (brains are remarkable that way): Alberta Aurora - Prairie Light, a lovely time lapse that has better-than-usual resolution and color, taken as the April 23/24 solar storm swept over the Earth.

What you see in an aurora depends in part on the angle of the Earth's magnetic field relative to the air; the geomagnetic field guides particles from the Sun's outbursts into our atmosphere. If you are seeing this from far enough away, you get those sheets and ribbons, the interaction seen from the side. But at 1:50 into the video the perspective changes. The camera is underneath the point where the particles are streaming in, so you're looking up, right into the barrel of the magnetic field. It's a remarkable change in view that must be awesome to see in person.

I've never seen a full-on aurora, but some day I will. I hope it's as pretty as this one was.

Related Posts:

- The green fire of the aurora, seen from space
- Januaryâs aurorae from way far north
- Faith and begaurora (because no one - not one person - sent me love over the AWESOME title I gave this post)
- The rocket, the laser, and the northern lights

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