The Sun has been stubbornly refusing to get out of bed these days; although it should be approaching (or already at) the peak of its 11-year magnetic cycle, the activity itâs been showing is best described as âlackadaisicalâ. At the peak of its last cycle (in 2003) it was blasting out enormous storms so big they pegged the meter, but this time we can barely get it to mildly belch.
But it does have some signs of life: Last week it blew out a mild coronal mass ejection, a storm of subatomic particles, toward Earth. Our planetâs magnetic field acted like a net, catching those particles, and funneling them down to the poles. When they slammed into the upper atmosphere, the atoms and molecules up there responded by glowing, creating an aurora.
Astrophotographer GÃ¶ran Strand set up his camera and took some amazing shots of the display, and also created this lovely (if too short!) time-lapse animation of the event:
Strand is located in Ãstersund, in mid-Sweden, at a latitude of about 63Â° north, a prime spot for seeing the northern lights. Heâs taken quite a few aurora pictures over time, and you should go take a look. You can also follow him on Facebook and Twitter.
Will the Sun continue to laze about, or will activity pick up? Thereâs no way to know. Your best bet is to keep your eyes on the Solar Weather Protection Center, which provides details on the Sunâs temper. Iâll note that although itâs a government site, SWPC is deemed to be vital to life and property, so it will stay up during the shutdown.