Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
2007 November 19
Explanation: Some aurorae can only be seen with a camera. They are called sub-visual and are too faint to be seen with the unaided eye. The reason is that the human eye only accumulates light for a fraction of a second at a time, while a camera shutter can be left open indefinitely. When photographing an already picturesque scene above Juneau, Alaska, USA, a camera caught green sub-visual aurora near the horizon. Aurorae are sparked by energetic particles from the Sun impacting the magnetic environment around the Earth. Resultant energetic particles such as electrons and protons rain down near the Earth's poles and impact the air. The impacted air molecules temporarily lose electrons, and when oxygen molecules among them reacquire these electrons, they emit green light. Aurorae are known to have many shapes and colours.
Authors & editors:
Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
NASA Official: Phillip Newman Specific rights apply.
A service of: ASD at NASA / GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.