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]."
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.)
Photographer Sathya sent Space.com 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.
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