Real Time Recent Northern Lights

The video above was taken from Norway and shows, in real-time, the appearance of the aurora borealis or Northern Lights that lit up the skies on the weekend of January 24th this year. A strong solar storm struck the Earth that weekend, sending cascades of highly charged particles along the Earth’s magnetosphere’s field lines into the atmosphere around the poles. There those charged particles interacted with the molecules of nitrogen and oxygen high in the atmosphere, exciting their electrons and causing them to release energy in the form of light — seen on the ground as the ethereal Northern Lights. I was lucky enough, growing up in an Army family, to live in Fairbanks, Alaska for a few years, and we got to see these lights regularly right outside our home. Disappointingly, many videos of auroras are sped-up, giving a false impression to those of you Outside (as they refer to rest of the world in Alaska) of how they look. This video above — of last week’s storm — shows the auroras in real-time, but at their most active. On most occasions that I saw them, they did not move this quickly — but sometimes, every once in a while, they did give short bursts of activity like that shown in the video. To see it sustained for so long is amazing.

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