This is the sky show as seen from the shores of Lake Superior. It is just part of what skywatchers expect will be an incredible series of auroras resulting from the impact of charged particles smashing through the Earth's protective shell during the current solar storm.
After four years of relative quiet, the sun has begun generating powerful blasts: two, actually, within the space of month: February 15 and March 9. Scientists note that flares are our solar system's largest explosive events.
Caption byCharles Cooper / Photo by Eric Frigon, Thesuntoday.org, Spaceweather.com
The sky from Sandy Point, near Invercargill, New Zealand.
Caption byCharles Cooper / Photo by Stephen Voss, Thesuntoday.org, Spaceweather.com,
The increased radiation, which collects along the Earth's poles, has the potential to wreak temporary havoc with communications. But it also makes for quite beautiful auroras. To learn more about solar storms, click here.
The Venus Express spacecraft orbiting Venus is much closer to the sun than is the Earth. Scientists at the European Space Agency report that the craft was affected by the radiation on March 7. Startracker cameras that help Venus Express measure its position and orientation got blinded, forcing mission controllers back on Earth to take them out of service temporarily. A representative said the craft is now maintaining its altitude using gyroscopes.