Rivers from the sun, unlocking the mystery of the Northern Lights with THEMIS

November 7-8, 2004 Aurora Borealis by Brian & Shawn Malone

November 7-8, 2004 Aurora Borealis, photo by Brian & Shawn Malone

This photo is one of many taken by Upper Peninsula photographers Brian & Shawn Malone of LakeSuperiorPhoto.com from the fantastic Northern Lights displays of November 2004 and other years. They have a ton more from all kinds of U.P. places and events that you can view and purchase if you’re so inclined.

The source of the aurora borealis (Northern Lights) has long been a beautiful mystery. Last week, however, CNN featured an article on the possible discovery of the energy source for the Northern Lights.

New data from NASA’s Themis mission, a quintet of satellites launched this winter, found the energy comes from a stream of charged particles from the sun flowing like a current through twisted bundles of magnetic fields connecting Earth’s upper atmosphere to the sun.

The energy is then abruptly released in the form of a shimmering display of lights…

You can get more in the article above or head over to NASA’s THEMIS mission for all the crunchy details including some multimedia (which in turn includes the THEMIS Mission Trailer – guaranteed to get your inner geek jumping!). Also see the THEMIS video & image gallery at the University of California – Berkley. Themis was the Greek goddess of justice (aka “the blindfold lady”) and the daughter of sky god Uranus and earth goddess Gaia.

3 thoughts on “Rivers from the sun, unlocking the mystery of the Northern Lights with THEMIS

  1. Michigan is also host to two of the ground based magnetometers also used in the THEMIS mission to unlock the mysteries of the Northern Lights.

    Chippewa Hills High School (Remus, MI) is participating in the THEMIS mission E/PO (Education and Public Outreach), as is Bay Mills Community College (Brimley, MI).

    Students at Chippewa Hills have learned about how Earth generates it’s magnetic field and how magnetism in the Sun produces the “storms” that result in our northern (and southern!) lights.

    Several students have even taken it a step farther. In December of 2006 they wrote a proposal for, and were given time on, the National Solar Telescope at Kitt Peak, Arizona to study changes in the magnetic field of sunspots before, during, and after solar flares.


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