John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Ground cameras caught the northern lights in full effect during a magnetic encounter with the sun.
By now Northerners are probably aware our planet is being blasted by solar wind escaping from a coronal hole. The evidence is in the sky—snaking, emerald-colored aurora borealis, ethereally waving from Oregon to Michigan to Finland.
If geography or clouds are blocking your view, a good substitute can be found in this enthralling new video from NASA and others, showing a raging geomagnetic storm in March 2013. While the perspective suggests this footage was taken by eyes in the sky, it actually comes from ground cameras scattered throughout Canada. The space agency writes:
The dancing lights in the image above are the aurora borealis or Northern Lights. These auroras are at their most dynamic during geomagnetic storms—often the result of solar storms called coronal mass ejections, or CMEs, that originate from the sun. The aurora shown above occurred as the result of a CME that erupted from the sun early on Mar. 15, 2013. Some 46 hours later, early on Mar. 17, 2013, this CME struck Earth’s magnetic field, depositing and storing energy in Earth’s magnetosphere. When this energy was released, charged particles from the magnetosphere were sent rushing down towards Earth’s atmosphere where they collided with neutral particles, creating the brilliant aurora.
If you’re interested in checking out more images from this ghostly event, EarthSky has a nice roundup from 2013.