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Auroras over Northern Canada
Auroras over Northern Canada
(C) Kwon, O Chul (TWAN)
Gusting solar winds and blasts of charged particles from the Sun resulted in several rewarding nights last December for those anticipating auroras. The above image captured dramatic auroras stretching across a sky near the town of Yellowknife in northern Canada. The auroras were so bright that they not only inspired awe, but were easily visible on an image exposure of only 1.3 seconds. A video taken concurrently shows the dancing sky lights evolving in real time as tourists, many there just to see auroras, respond with cheers. The conical dwellings on the image right are teepees, while far in the background, near the image center, is the constellation of Orion.

Aurora Dog over Alaska
Aurora Dog over Alaska
(C) John Chumack
Sometimes it is hard to believe what you see in the sky. While leading his annual aurora tour last month near Fairbanks in central Alaska, astrophotographer John Chumack and his company saw a most unusual aurora. This bright aurora appeared to change into the shape of a jumping dog, complete with a curly tail. He was able to capture the fleeting natural apparition in the above image with a 15-second exposure through a wide-angle lens. By coincidence, he also captured a background sky filled with familiar highlights. Planets visible include bright Jupiter through the dog's front legs and reddish Mars below the dog's hind legs. Stars visible include the Big Dipper stars above the dog's midsection and reddish Betelgeuse shining on the far right. This dog would not be following him home, however, and within a few minutes morphed into other shapes before the geomagnetic storm particles that created it shifted to strike the Earth elsewhere.

Alaska Aurora Sequence
Alaska Aurora Sequence
(C) LeRoy Zimmerman (TWAN)
A remarkably intense auroral band flooded the northern night with shimmering colors on December 7. The stunning sequence captured here was made with a camera fixed to a tripod under cold, clear skies near Ester, just outside of Fairbanks, Alaska. Left to right, spanning a period of about 30 minutes, the panels follow changes in the dancing curtains of northern lights extending to altitudes of over 100 kilometers in a band arcing directly overhead. The panels span 150 degrees vertically, covering about 500 kilometers of aurora laying across the sky from edge to edge. The auroral activity was triggered by a moderate level geomagnetic storm, as a high speed solar wind stream buffeted planet Earth's magnetosphere.

Aurora and Unusual Clouds Over Iceland
Aurora and Unusual Clouds Over Iceland
(C) Stéphane Vetter (Nuits sacrées)
What's happening in the sky? On this cold winter night in Iceland, quite a lot. First, in the foreground, lies the largest glacier in Iceland: Vatnajokull. On the far left, bright green auroras appear to emanate from the glacier as if it was a volcano. Aurora light is reflected by the foreground lake Jökulsárlón. On the far right is a long and unusual lenticular cloud tinged with green light emitted from another aurora well behind it. Just above this lenticular cloud are unusual iridescent lenticular clouds displaying a broad spectral range of colors. Far beyond the lenticular is the setting Moon, while far beyond even the Moon are setting stars. The above image was captured in late March of 2012.

Meteors and Aurorae over Iceland
Meteors and Aurorae over Iceland
(C) James Boardman-Woodend (Images ~ Inspired by Nature); Annotation: Judy Schmidt
What's going on behind that mountain? Quite a bit. First of all, the mountain itself, named Kirkjufell, is quite old and located in western Iceland near the town of Grundarfjörður. In front of the steeply-sloped structure lies a fjord that had just begun to freeze when the above image was taken -- in mid-December of 2012. Although quite faint to the unaided eye, the beautiful colors of background aurorae became quite apparent on the 25-second exposure. What makes this image is of particular note, though, is that it also captures streaks from the Geminids meteor shower -- meteors that might not have been evident were the aurora much brighter. Far in the distance, on the left, is the band of our Milky Way Galaxy, while stars from our local part of the Milky Way appear spread across the background. This weekend the Perseids meteor shower will peak and may well provide sky enthusiasts with their own memorable visual experiences.

The Waterfall and the World at Night
The Waterfall and the World at Night
(C) Stéphane Vetter (Nuits sacrées)
Above this boreal landscape, the arc of the Milky Way and shimmering aurorae flow through the night. Like an echo, below them lies Iceland's spectacular Godafoss, the Waterfall of the Gods. Shining just below the Milky Way, bright Jupiter is included in the panoramic nightscape recorded on March 9. Faint and diffuse, the Andromeda Galaxy (M31) appears immersed in the auroral glow. The digital stitch of four frames is a first place winner in the 2013 International Earth and Sky Photo Contest on Dark Skies Importance organized by The World at Night. An evocative record of the beauty of planet Earth's night sky, all the contest's winning entries are featured in this video.

Aurora and Fireball Over Norway
Aurora and Fireball Over Norway
(C) Ole C. Salomonsen (Arctic Light Photo)
What's happening behind that mountain? A convergence of variable sky spectacles. One night in mid-September near Tromsø, Norway, high red aurora could be seen shimmering through lower green aurora in a way that created a striking and somewhat unusual violet glow. Suddenly, though, the sky flashed with the brightest fireball the astrophotographer had ever seen, as a small pebble from outer space violently crashed into the Earth's atmosphere. The glow illuminated the distant mountain peak known as Otertinden of the Lyngen Alps. The bright meteor, which coincidently disappeared behind the same mountain, was also reflected in the foreground Signalelva River. Although you might consider yourself lucky to see either an aurora or a bright meteor, pictures of them together have been recorded several times previously.

Volcano and Aurora in Iceland
Volcano and Aurora in Iceland
(C) Sigurdur H. Stefnisson
Sometimes both heaven and Earth erupt. In Iceland in 1991, the volcano Hekla erupted at the same time that auroras were visible overhead. Hekla, one of the most famous volcanoes in the world, has erupted at least 20 times over the past millennium, sometimes causing great destruction. The last eruption occurred only twelve years ago but caused only minor damage. The green auroral band occurred fortuitously about 100 kilometers above the erupting lava. Is Earth the Solar System's only planet with both auroras and volcanos?

A Full Sky Aurora Over Norway
A Full Sky Aurora Over Norway
(C) Sebastian Voltmer
Higher than the highest building, higher than the highest mountain, higher than the highest airplane, lies the realm of the aurora. Auroras rarely reach below 60 kilometers, and can range up to 1000 kilometers. Aurora light results from energetic electrons and protons striking molecules in the Earth's atmosphere. Frequently, when viewed from space, a complete aurora will appear as a circle around one of the Earth's magnetic poles. The above wide angle image, horizontally compressed, captured an unexpected auroral display that stretched across the sky one month ago over eastern Norway.

Aurora Over Greenland
Aurora Over Greenland
(C) Juan Carlos Casado (TWAN)
This aurora arched from horizon to horizon. During the current Shelios expedition to observe and learn about the northern lights, the sky last weekend did not disappoint. After sunset and some careful photographic planning, the above image was taken from the expedition's Qaleraliq campsite in southern Greenland. Visible straight through the center of the aurora, found with a careful eye, is the Big Dipper and the surrounding constellation of the Big Bear (Ursa Major). The brightest orb on the far right is the Moon, while Jupiter can be seen even further to the right. The Shelios expedition is scheduled to last until the end of August and include live broadcasts of ongoing auroras.

Above Aurora Australis
Above Aurora Australis
(C) ISS Expedition 23 Crew, ISAL, NASA
On May 29, looking southward from a vantage point about 350 kilometers above the southern Indian Ocean, astronauts onboard the International Space Station watched this enormous, green ribbon shimmering below. Known as aurora australis or southern lights, the shifting, luminous bands are commonly seen at high northern latitudes as well, there known as the aurora borealis or northern lights. North or south their cause is the same though, as energetic charged particles from the magnetosphere pile into the atmosphere near the Earth's poles. To produce the characteristic greenish glow, the energetic particles excite oxygen atoms at altitudes of 100 kilometers or more. Aurora on May 29 were likely triggered by the interaction of the magnetosphere with a coronal mass ejection erupting from the Sun on May 24.
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Aurora : Movie

NASA | The Mystery of the Aurora
With spring right around the corner it is the season for auroras. The beautiful and mysterious auroras are spectacular to watch, but they are actually a manifestation of violent space weather. This weather can create big problems here on Earth by disrupting power grids, satellites, air travel and even GPS signals. While auroras have fascinated observers for centuries, little had been known about their origin. But NASA is aiming to resolve this mystery with a new mission called THEMIS.

Aurora Australis
Video of the Aurora Australis taken by the crew of Expedition 29 on board the International Space Station. This sequence of shots was taken September 17, 2011 from 17:22:27 to 17:45:12 GMT, on an ascending pass from south of Madagascar to just north of Australia over the Indian Ocean.
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