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.
2016 March 16
Explanation: All of the other aurora watchers had gone home. By 3:30 am in Iceland, on a quiet night last September, much of that night's aurorae had died down. Suddenly though, a new burst of particles streamed down from space, lighting up the Earth's atmosphere once again. This time, unexpectedly, pareidoliacally, they created an amazing shape reminiscent of a giant phoenix. With camera equipment at the ready, two quick sky images were taken, followed immediately by a third of the land. The mountain in the background is Helgafell, while the small foreground river is called Kaldá, both located about 30 kilometres north of Iceland's capital Reykjavik. Seasoned skywatchers will note that just above the mountain, toward the left, is the constellation of Orion, while the Pleiades star cluster is also visible just above the frame centre. The new aurora lasted only a minute and would be gone forever -- possibly dismissed as an embellished aberration -- were it not captured in the featured, digitally-composed, image mosaic.
Authors & editors:
Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
NASA Official: Phillip Newman Specific rights apply.
A service of: ASD at NASA / GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.