Skywatchers Catch an Amazing Views of Auroras

Outbursts from the sun over the past week gave the best opportunity for skywatchers to catch an amazing views of auroras recently.

The glowing auroras, also called the northern and southern lights, are caused when charged particles from the sun collide with Earth’s magnetic field. These charged particles are in abundance lately in the wake of a series of super-charged solar eruptions that began on March 6. The sun released two huge X-class solar flares that are the most powerful type of sun storm on Tuesday, followed by strong eruptions on Wednesday and Thursday. These tempests have fired off waves of plasma and particles called coronal mass ejections (CME) that travel through space, sometimes hitting Earth and giving skywatchers a treat. According to W. Jeffrey Hughes, director of the Center for Integrated Space Weather Modeling at Boston University the solar storm currently underway is the largest so far during this solar cycle that began about two years ago and is expected to peak 12-15 months from now. Astrophotographers Imelda Joson and Edwin Aguirre were flying from Boston to Los Angeles on March 8 night, and knew the chances of seeing auroras were high.They first noticed the aurora’s greenish glow along the horizon as the plane was approaching Wisconsin. The glow grew stronger and stronger, and by the time they were flying over Minnesota, the display reached its peak, exhibiting distinct structures such as bright rays, curtains and bands. The two photographers managed to snap a number of great aurora shots. Observer Shawn Malone caught a view of the northern lights over Lake Superior from Marquette, Mich., early Wednesday.