Thursday, June 25, 2015

Spectacular Northern Lights Show Could Continue This Weekend (Photos, Video)

by Calla Cofield, Staff Writer   |   June 25, 2015 12:58pm ET 

Throughout Canada and as far south as Philadelphia, the northern lights have been wowing skywatchers this week, and the colorful displays could continue, following another solar explosion spotted by NASA.

A large sun storm last weekend known as a coronal mass ejection (CME) sent high-energy particles streaming toward Earth, where their interaction with the atmosphere and the magnetic field supercharged the gorgeous color displays known in the northern hemisphere as the aurora borealis.

The dazzling celestial show may go on, thanks to another CME detected by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) today (June 25).

Today's explosion came from a freckle on the sun's surface known as sunspot AR12371, which also erupted on Tuesday (June 23). The particles blasted into space by Earth-directed CMEs usually reach our planet after one to five days, so auroras amped up by the latest solar storm could appear this weekend — if Earth was indeed in the crosshairs.

"A nice coronal wave ripped across the solar surface and material was thrown into space, giving us a CME that could have an Earthward component," reads a Facebook post today by The Sun Today and shared by SDO team members. "We are waiting for models from NASA and NOAA [the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration]."

Aurora Above Marquette, Michigan
: A stunning image of the northern lights captured by photographer Shawn Malone in the early morning on June 23 from Marquette, Michigan.
Credit: Shawn Malone

It's already been a stunning week for northern lights viewing. Photographer Shawn Malone captured the incredible light show from Marquette, Michigan. (More of Malone's work can be found at his website.)

Aurora Over Harmon, Illinois
Photographer Sathya shot this image of the northern lights leaving a warm glow in the sky over Harmon, Illinois. The Big Dipper can be seen to the left of the middle, just above the trees. The streaks of light near the ground are fireflies.
Credit: Sathya

Photographer Sathya sent this image from the Green River State Wildlife Area in Harmon, Illinois. The photo features not only a crowd of lightning bugs streaking through the air in the lower part of the image, but also the lights of the Big Dipper, which are visible to the left of the middle, just above the trees.

It's possible the light show will continue soon, if today's coronal mass ejection heads toward Earth.

Editor's note: If you have an amazing night sky photo you'd like to share for a possible story or image gallery, please contact managing editor Tariq Malik at
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