Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
2002 January 15
Explanation: Few aurorae show this level of detail. This unusual display of an auroral corona occurred on Earth three days after an unusual solar event -- the fifth most powerful explosion yet recorded on the Sun. An X14-class solar flare on April 15 sent a tremendous Coronal Mass Ejection (CME) into the Solar System. This CME did not directly impact the Earth. The Solar-System wide shock wave it created probably did, however, causing a G3-class geomagnetic storm and a night filled with colourful aurorae across much of northern North America. The unusual red colour of this Michigan aurora is caused by solar ions striking oxygen molecules 300 kilometres high in Earth's atmosphere. More typical green aurorae are caused by oxygen recombining only 100 kilometres high.
Authors & editors:
Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.