Massive solar storm creates stunning auroras around the Earth

Shane McGlaun - Oct 20, 2021, 6:26am CDT
Massive solar storm creates stunning auroras around the Earth

On October 9, a massive solar storm resulted in a coronal mass ejection (CME) being thrown into space and set on a path towards Earth. When material from the CME arrived at Earth and collided with the magnetosphere, it created some beautiful auroras in parts of the world that don’t typically see that phenomenon. A CME is essentially an explosion on the sun that expands into the solar system and speeds up the solar wind.

The solar wind is a constant stream of charged particles emanating from the sun’s upper atmosphere. The magnetosphere of the Earth blocks most of the solar wind, but some of the charged particles are trapped in the planet’s magnetic field. Those charged particles flow through the magnetosphere to the geomagnetic poles of the planet, creating beautiful auroras in the planet’s upper atmosphere.

A beautiful aurora is seen as flowing brightly colored streams of light in the sky on the ground. To show how beautiful the aurora was resulting from the solar storm, the ESA shared a video created from images taken every 60 seconds during the intense aurora activity in the early hours of October 12.

Images were captured by the all-sky camera located in Sweden, which is part of the ESA Space Weather Network. The camera is designed for viewing as much of the night sky as possible and uses a fish-eye lens, allowing it to view horizon to horizon while being pointed straight up into the air. Most of what humans see during intense aurora activity is green, but there is purple as well.

The purple in the images was created by energetic particles like ionic nitrogen in the planet’s atmosphere. The video does capture some of the beautiful purple aurorae and is worth watching.

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