Spectacular views as ionized atoms bombard Earth (photos)

A set of photos from particularly dramatic displays of the aurora borealis visible to millions in the last few days due to what NASA calls a coronal mass ejection.

James Martin
1 of 14 Bryan Hansel

The sun awakes

As the sun awakens from a dormant phase, NASA this week announced a coronal mass ejection that has led to a set of particularly dramatic aurorae viewable by millions of people as far south as Wisconsin and Iowa.

The larger than normal solar flare fired toward the Earth has resulted in an atmospheric geomagnetic storm, casting a brilliant aurora across Earth's skies.

Colliding with atoms of nitrogen and oxygen in the Earth's atmosphere, these ionized atoms are propelled into our skies, casting a brilliant glow of green and red neon light.

Normally associated with Canada and Alaska, the strange aurorae has been visible this week to millions of observers around the world.

Bryan Hansel took this picture of the northern lights in northeastern Minnesota. He explains: "A coronal mass ejection hit Earth's magnetic field, causing a G2-class geomagnetic storm. Between 11 and 12 p.m. Tuesday, the storm resulted in a display of northern lights. I captured this picture over Elbow Lake, which is up the Gunflint Trail from Grand Marais."
2 of 14 Jesper Gr


The charged particles, traveling 93 million miles from the sun at 1,000 kilometers per second, are deflected away by the Earth's magnetic field, resulting in the colorful display of eerie ambient light known as an aurora.

Jesper Grønne captured this vibrant view of sweeping green light, taken in Denmark on August 4.
3 of 14 Trym Norman Sannes

Trym Norman Sannes

A brilliant yellow and green image from Trym Norman Sannes, taken with his Canon EOD 7D, sigma 10-20mm f4-5.6 and tripod. Settings used were: f-stop f/5, shutter speed of 25 seconds, focal length 10mm, auto white balance, and ISO 1600.
4 of 14 Bob Johnson

Beautiful green dancing auroras

Beautiful green dancing auroras taken by Bob Johnson, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, on August 3.
5 of 14 Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/lutman123/">lutman123</a>

Shannon Lutman

Shannon Lutman, just back from five days at her cottage in Michigan, captured these images on August 3. This 106-second exposure was captured at 3:30 a.m. before the morning fog rolled in.
6 of 14 Tony Wilder

Aurora Borealis over Lake Wissota

The aurora borealis over Lake Wissota in Chippewa Falls, Wis., taken by Tony Wilder. Tony captured these shots with a Canon 30D on a tripod manually focused to infinity at f2.8, ISO 400 for 20 seconds at around 2 a.m. August 3.
7 of 14 Robert Snache/Spirithands.net

Again on August 3

Again on August 3, there were aurora borealis in the sky over central North America. Weaker than the previous night, the lights faded into the early morning and were covered with overcast skies.
8 of 14 Flickr user <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/thornhill/">red_lander</a>

Aurora shot over Mitchell Lake

Aurora shot over Mitchell Lake by Highway 48 in southern Ontario on August 3.
9 of 14 Derek Weston

St Germain, Wisc.

While vacationing in St. Germain, Wis., on August 3, Derek Weston waited as the CME headed toward Earth. With a long exposure, the lights didn't disappoint.
10 of 14 Trym Norman Sannes

Trym Norman Sannes aurora

Trym Norman Sannes, in the woods one hour north of Oslo, Norway, near the small town of Jevnaker captured this image on August 4.
11 of 14 Trym Norman Sannes

Trym Norman Sannes

Another shot taken by Trym Norman Sannes, north of Oslo, Norway.
12 of 14 Jesper Gr

Jesper Grønne

An aurora in Denmark on August 4.
13 of 14 Olivier Du Tr

Olivier Du Tre

Olivier Du Tré always dreamed of photographing an aurora, and when the clouds parted in Cochrane, Alberta, on August 3, Du Tré captured these glowing hues.
14 of 14 Robert Snache/Spirithands.net

A brilliant swath of green

A brilliant swath of green just above the lake in Rama, Ontario, on August 4.

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