Aurora Pictures Videos: Huge Solar Blasts Spark Rare Colors
The solar storm that swept past Earth over the weekend didn't disrupt any power grids, but it did turn on the auroral lights for skywatchers over a wide swath of North America, extending at least as far down as Arkansas.
SpaceWeather.com cataloged stunning photos from the usual places in northern climes, including Canadian provinces as well as the northern tier of the United States. But this particular solar storm — sparked by last Thursday's big coronal mass ejection, or CME — didn't stop there. Photographers sent in pictures from Arkansas as well as Ohio, Nebraska, Utah, California and other locales well south of the usual places. There were auroral images as well from Scotland, Hungary, and yes, from New Zealand, Tasmania and the South Pole at the other end of the world.
Observers knew they were in for something big, due to the fact that the flare associated with the solar eruption reached an extreme level of X1.4 on the classification scale for solar outbursts. The radio blast from a sunspot region known as AR 1520 resulted in a strong radio blackout for some high-frequency communication systems, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Space Weather Prediction Center.
Extreme solar storms have been known to knock out electrical grids as well as satellites, but this one apparently had no ill effects. Today, the prediction center said the stormy space weather "is finally showing signs of weakening."
"No further significant activity has occurred, and while Region 1520 has become less of a threat, it still has the potential for further activity," the center reported.
The sun is heading toward the high point of its 11-year activity cycle, with the maximum expected next year. That means this weekend's storm could just be a foretaste of what's ahead for aurora-watchers and space weather forecasters over the coming months. In the meantime, check out this gallery featuring the latest pictures from the world's greatest light show:
Photograph courtesy Andrew Dallow
Auroras light up the sky over Darfield, New Zealand, on July 10, a few days after a huge flare erupted from the sun.
Auroras are mirrored in Lake St. Charles, near Quebec City, Canada, on July 19.
On a "spectacular evening," photographer Francis Audet canoed to the island, set up the shot, and waited "until then the magic happened," he said.
Photograph courtesy Paul Nelson
Smooth as glass, Lake Superior reflects auroras on July 2.
Photograph by Brad Goldpaint
Photographer Brad Goldpaint snapped multiple frames of the northern lights on July 15. "I had an incredible experience last night capturing the aurora borealis over Sparks Lake in Central Oregon,"
The subtle glow of the aurora competes with the glare of a signal light at the Ojibway Bay Marina, as captured over the weekend by photographer Robert Snache of Rama First Nation in Ontario.
VIDEO July 15, 2012 Arkansas Aurora
VIDEO July 16th 2012 Northern Lower Michigan Solar Storm