Amazing auroras: Mother Nature's stunning light show

95 million miles from the Earth, the sun erupts in spectacular solar flares -- and here on Earth, we are dazzled by auroras that dance and twist across the face of the planet. 

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April 24, 2012: Tiny specks of light twinkle from a lonely freighter (dead center). For more of Shawn Malone's stunning photography, go to LakeSuperiorPhoto.com.

Shawn Malone/LakeSuperiorPhoto.com

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April 22, 2012: An aurora and the Milky Way. For more stunning photography by Shawn Malone, go to LakeSuperiorPhoto.com.

Shawn Malone/LakeSuperiorPhoto.com

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April 22, 2012: A meteor streaks across the sky. See more at LakeSuperiorPhoto.com.

Shawn Malone/LakeSuperiorPhoto.com

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April 24, 2012: Northern lights on the horizon.

Shawn Malone/LakeSuperiorPhoto.com

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April 22, 2012: Light trails and light pollution.

Shawn Malone/LakeSuperiorPhoto.com

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April 13, 2012: Venus sets next to a stunningly bright aurora over the water.

Shawn Malone/LakeSuperiorPhoto.com

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March 16, 2012: Subtle but beautiful, the eerie green glow of the aurora permeates the night sky.

Shawn Malone/LakeSuperiorPhoto.com

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March 19, 2012: After four straight days of auroras, suddenly, a beautiful spectrum of color.

Shawn Malone/LakeSuperiorPhoto.com

Aurora Storm

The solar storm hitting our atmosphere resulted in a vivid display of gorgeous colors. For Michel Tournay, the whole sky was green and purple. "I had trouble deciding where to aim my camera."

Michel Tournay

Aurora Storm

Another shot of the aurora -- more commonly called the Northern Lights -- taken near the LG-1 dam, 20 miles from Chisasibi, Quebec, in Canada with a Nikon D3 camera.

Michel Tournay

Battling the Clouds

In Ringsaker, Norway, the aurora borealis was fighting with clouds, moonlight, and sunlight for visibility at 2am local time Wednesday morning.

Ragnar Johnskås

Stockholm Scene

Photographer Peter Rosen captured this eye-popping view of the northern lights over Stockholm, Sweden.

Peter Rosen

A Starry Night

These Northern Lights were very faint to the human eye, but vivid to the camera. Photographer Mike Hillingshead describes how he captured it in Little Sioux, Iowa:

“If one didn’t know what they were looking for they’d never have known they were there. With a camera it makes it easy to be sure. For a couple hours, I was readily picking up the red/purple higher up while the near horizon area was full of clouds. Got a cap and could see green through it and was then I was sure.”

Mike Hillingshead

Canadian Arctic

This shot of the aurora was taken by Doug McLarty in the Canadian Arctic -- near the Rankin Inlet area in Nunavut, Canada.

Doug McLarty

Beauty in Babbitt

“My wife and I headed out last night to see if the recent solar flares would produce some northern lights in our area. We were fortunate to catch a few nice displays before it dimmed.” – Photographer Tom Pinkerton.

Tom Pinkerton

Hiding Behind Clouds

Photographer Eric Coulombe caught this pretty scene in Val-d’or, Quebec, Canada. “There were some nice auroras that were hidden behind a cloud, but it was a great show.”

Eric Coulombe

Star Trails and Northern Lights

“The Northern Lights were out last night from about 11 to midnight. At times they were bright and well defined. This picture was shot at Elbow Lake near Grand Marais, Minnesota. Even with the streaks, you can still make out the shape of the big dipper pointing right to the North Star.” – Photographer Bryan Hansel

Bryan Hansel

Purple Green

This shot of an amazing aurora with lots of green and purple was taken by Colin Chatfield just east of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in Canada.

Colin Chatfield

A Passing Meteor

“They were bright, but I've seen brighter. The aurora was dancing around with swirling structure and a red glow at the base. The faint streak on one photo is a meteor that I saw while taking the picture.” – Photographer Gunjan Sinha in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Gunjan Sinha

Northern Lights

The solar event caused a beautiful light show for Shawn Malone of Marquette, Mich. He captured this picture over Lake Superior; there's a green hue because of oxygen emissions in the atmosphere. Nitrogen emissions would produce a blue or red glow depending on the state of the atoms.

Shawn Malone / Lake Superior Photo

Watching

There was nothing more than a hint of green above the horizon in Ontario, Canada, where Robert Snache watched the event. 

Robert Snache / Flickr

Aurora Over Oslo

"Miraculously, the fog disappeared as fast is it had arrived," explained Norwegian photographer Trym Norman Sannes. "Just a short time later as I was photographing the rising moon I saw a green ray of northern light on my cameras LCD. After this it just got more intense."

Trym Norman Sannes / SpaceWeather

Minnesota

Much of the U.S. was cloudy, but some photographers lucked out -- like Travis Novitsky. "Well, the aurora made a pretty good showing last night! It sounds like most everyone in Minnesota had cloudy skies, but lucky for me the clouds didn't move in to my area until after the aurora faded."

Travis Novitsky / SpaceWeather

Beautiful Aurora

Travis Novitsky / SpaceWeather

Minnesota's Stars

"These images were all captured between 11:00 p.m. and 12:00 a.m," explains Minnesotan photographer Travis Novitsky. "At about 11:45 I noticed the moon was coming up, so I made a couple of exposures of the moon as well as the northern lights." The results are stunning. 

Travis Novitsky / SpaceWeather

Stars Over Minnesota

It appears tke sky remained clear long enough for Novitsky to capture some truly great photographs. 

Travis Novitsky / SpaceWeather

Wisconsin

"It was a sweet surprise to catch a glimpse again of a spectacular event known as the Aurora Borealis over Lake Wissota in Chippewa Falls, WI, where I live," said photographer Tony Wilder. 

Tony Wilder / SpaceWeather

Gorgeous Aurora

"I grabbed these shots with my CANON 30D on a tripod manually focused to infinity at f2.8 ISO 400 for 20 seconds," said Wilder. "The northern lights never get old, but I got tired and headed back in to crash at about 3 a.m. CST."

Tony Wilder / SpaceWeather

Over Chippewa Falls, WI

While many portions of the United States were clouded over last night, Wisconsin seems to have experienced beautiful weather. 

Tony Wilder / SpaceWeather

Skies Over Saskatoon

Bob Johnson photographed beautiful dancing auroras over Canada -- and a meteor as well.

Bob Johnson / SpaceWeather

Green Smudge

By the time it was dark enough to see, the aurora was merely a green smudge low on the horizon, Robert reports.

Robert Snache / Flickr

Spectacular Aurora

In northern latitudes, the effect is known as the aurora borealis, named after the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas. The solar event caused skies to light up from the U.S. to Denmark, where this spectacular view of an aurora was taken.

Jesper Grønne

Auroral Mechanism

Auroras are the result of emissions of photons in the Earth's upper atmosphere, about 50 miles above the ground. Oxygen and nitrogen atoms are ionized or excited by the collision of solar wind particles, such as those caused by the solar emission.

Jesper Grønne

Solar Eruption

This extreme ultraviolet snapshot from the NASA Solar Dynamics Observatory shows the sun's northern hemisphere in mid-eruption amidst a tumult of activity: a C3-class solar flare, a solar tsunami, multiple filaments of magnetism, shaking of the corona, radio bursts and a coronal mass ejection.

NASA

Sun Waking Up

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory snapped this X-ray photo of the Sun early in the morning of Sunday, August 1. The dark arc near the top right edge of the image is a filament of plasma blasting off the surface --  the "coronal mass ejection" that led to the auroras. The bright region is an unassociated solar flare.

NASA

Amazing auroras: Mother Nature's stunning light show

95 million miles from the Earth, the sun erupts in spectacular solar flares -- and here on Earth, we are dazzled by auroras that dance and twist across the face of the planet. 

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