A chance to see the aurora borealis?

I wish I could be more specific, but the media is sucking on this one. The sun recently had a big solar flare. When those hit Earth’s magnetic field, they tend to look awesome. The further North or South you are, provided the flare is at the correct angle, the cooler it is. Maybe you can see one tonight. Maybe.

I’ve found articles that say the U.S. would have been seeing it a few days ago and Northern Europe is going to get a show. Others say it was last night or tonight. Still others take pains to note all the mayhem and destruction that could happen because FEAR FEAR FEAR! The best I can figure, go outside tonight and look up. It can’t hurt. Maybe you’ll see some pretty colors.

Also, as a note of interest, solar flares often get cited by global warming denialists as one reason for some of Earth’s more recent temperature fluctuation. This perplexes me. The Sun has 11 year cycles where it goes from kicking some ass to just being a cute little puppy. To put it scientifically. The past decade has seen it be unusually quiet. As a result, we might expect temperatures to be, um, well, this is crazy, so brace yourself…lower. But we don’t see that. We just keep breaking records. Besides that, the biggest convey of change in Earth’s temperature is water. We have these things called oceans, you see, and because water has a high specific heat capacity, it takes some time to warm it up or cool it down. Solar flares wouldn’t have a significant impact. The denialists need to find a new way to abuse science, methinks.

Anyway. Go outside tonight. Look up. It might be prettier than usual.

A second chance to see the Aurora Borealis

It’s still possible to see the northern lights tonight, so I hear. I just took a look with somewhat clear skies, but I couldn’t see anything. Of course, something so spectacular is worth a second shot in a couple of hours.

Info and image via Starts With A Bang.

Aurorae headed this way

The Sun’s surface has erupted recently and the plasma is headed this way.

“This eruption is directed right at us, and is expected to get here early in the day on August 4th,” said astronomer Leon Golub of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA). “It’s the first major Earth-directed eruption in quite some time.”

Aurorae normally are visible only at high latitudes. However, during a geomagnetic storm aurorae can light up the sky at lower latitudes. Sky watchers in the northern U.S. and other countries should look toward the north on the evening of August 3rd/4th for rippling “curtains” of green and red light.

That means tonight. Watch for it.

Hubble captures Saturn’s aurorae

Two times every 30 years it is possible to view Saturn’s aurorae from where the Hubble telescope is positioned. Since the telescope will be out of commission 30 years from now, this is the only image it will ever take where each aurora can be viewed simultaneously.

The principle behind these aurorae is the same that’s behind the aurora borealis, or northern lights.

Hubble captures Saturn's aurorae

Two times every 30 years it is possible to view Saturn’s aurorae from where the Hubble telescope is positioned. Since the telescope will be out of commission 30 years from now, this is the only image it will ever take where each aurora can be viewed simultaneously.

The principle behind these aurorae is the same that’s behind the aurora borealis, or northern lights.