Northern lights – those beautiful green and red ribbons of dancing light that show up in the northern sky at night. I’m frequently asked – What are they? Before I answer, I ask them what they think.
I get some pretty interesting answers. One person’s theory is that they’re caused by pollution. Another thought it’s the reflection of light off the polar ice cap. I’m pretty sure someone’s theory involved aliens and a government conspiracy.
Thank goodness my hubby was out at his brother’s house in the country one night when the northern lights were doing a dance across the sky. They looked as though the green ribbons were reaching down and touching the horizon. My brother-in-law was a little unnerved by the show until my hubby (who actually does listen to me) explained to him what they were.
The coolest show I’ve ever seen was about ten years ago, when I stood mesmerized in my neighbors driveway (too many trees by me) watching what looked like red ink being poured into the earth’s atmosphere. If I didn’t know what I was seeing, I may have been a little worried about what was happening!
So – in a nutshell – here’s what causes them: It starts with a coronal mass ejection (CME) from the sun, essentially a very large solar flare. Particles from the flare get caught up in our atmosphere and are attracted to the poles (both north and south). These particles are electrically charged and react with the gases in our atmosphere, bringing us the northern lights! For a more detailed explanation you can go to http://www.northernlightscentre.ca/northernlights.html.
So no worries – the next time you happen to catch sight of the northern lights remain calm! Enjoy the show, but first call your astronomy loving friends so they don’t miss out!!
At the end of September, the Astro Babes attended a lecture in Madison that was part of the “Biosignatures: What Does Life Leave Behind?” exhibit. (See the related “Trip to Mars” blog entry). It was a rare opportunity to hold a piece of Mars in our hands.
Here are a few pictures from this latest adventure.
Two fireballs streaked across the night sky in Ohio last week: one on Sept. 26 and another on Sept. 27. The Astro Babes started crossing their fingers and hoping another Meteorite Road Trip was in their near future. But unfortunately, neither meteorite seems to be a candidate for a leaving a large number of sizeable meteorites in its strewn field.
One meteorite was moving too quickly and burned up, and the other was probably too small to drop any sizeable meteorites. Additionally, no meteorite finds have been reported so far, so there is not much hope that pieces from either meteorite survived the fall through the atmosphere.
To keep abreast of any new falls, Amy and I signed up for Yahoo! Alerts, and whenever a news story with keywords like “fireball” and “meteorite” shows up in the Yahoo! News feed, we receive an email. It’s a great way to quickly learn about any new falls in our neck of the woods.