Both green and red aurora are visible in this photo made from the shuttle Discovery as it orbited the Earth. Credit: NASA/Clayton Anderson
Check out this very cool photo of the aurora borealis photographed just last month by astronaut Clayton Anderson during the space shuttle’s run to the International Space Station (ISS). Look to the far right and you’ll see the bottom half of Orion. The three Belt stars are straight up and down at the edge of the frame while Rigel is to their left. Both aurora colors are caused by excited oxygen atoms — the green at an altitude of about 60 miles, the red at 200 miles. When high speed particles from the sun funnel down Earth’s magnetic field lines, they crash into atoms in the upper atmosphere and pump up the energy of their electrons. As the electrons return to their previous "rest" state, the atoms emit tiny amounts of light of specific colors. The most common color is green from oxygen. To find out why oxygen can be both red and green at once, you’ll find a good explanation HERE.
If you liked the photo, you might also want to watch a video made by astronaut Don Pettit back in the fall of 2008 of the northern lights in action seen from the space station. Don combined many still images into a very effective movie.
Emily Wack and Ehren Inkel, UMD planetarium presenters, pull tape and hold the ladder for Eric Norland of the Arrowhead Astronomical Society while he seals the opening between the two sections of the life-sized Hubble mock-up with aluminized plastic earlier this week. Photos: Bob King
Today I’m at the University of Minnesota-Duluth for our annual Astronomy Day celebration. While we may be flitting with clouds, don’t let that stop you from coming out to see our life-size Hubble Space Telescope mock-up or enjoying a planetarium program and one of the many lectures on topics ranging from UFOs to astrophotography. We’re set up both inside and outside the UMD planetarium which is located off College Street between Kenwood and Woodland Avenues. Signs are posted to help guide you there. The event starts at 10 a.m. and goes until 4. Here’s the complete schedule if you’d like to plan your visit.
I’ll see you there and will be updating this blog with photos and comments throughout the day.
We had a little sun this morning and were able to use the telescope with a filter for viewing.
The crowd enjoys the first Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission at the UMD planetarium Saturday afternoon.
UMD student Emily Wack finishes up her presentation on black holes with a reference to the Schwartzchild Radius, which refers to how small you’d have to squeeze something before it became a black hole. The sun would need to be crushed into sphere about 1 1/2 miles across before it would collapse into a black hole.
Ryan Tomsche of Cloquet colors in his planets during a kids’ activity at Astronomy Day.
The winds were cruel to our Hubble scope and it was decided to close the exhibit in the afternoon.
Eric Norland still has a bright outlook despite the Hubble’s troubles.
The winds were strong and they were unkind. Despite valiant efforts to patch our Hubble mock-up’s shiny "skin" it was inevitable we weren’t going to win the battle. Then the rain started and more wind, and the scope began lifting from its anchors. It was time to take the exhibit down.
But the show must always go on, and we had lots of other activities and talks, and the people came. The most popular talks were on UFOs, Star Wars planets and the year 2012. There were shows on Native American constellations, the southern sky, the zodiac and many more. The planetarium staff and Arrowhead Astronomical Society put together some great programs and were a blast to work with. What a crew! If I ever were to ride aboard the space station, I’d want all of them with me.