Chandra View of the Aurora
Credit: NASA/MSFC/CXC/A.Bhardwaj & R.Elsner, et al.; Earth model: NASA/GSFC/L.Perkins & G.Shirah

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As the Sun rages, storms buffet the planets and ignite the aurorae borealis. The Aurora Borealis, or the "Northern Lights" is produced as charged particles ejected from the Sun during solar flares spiral in the Earth's magnetic field and get funneled to the Earth's north pole. (A similar phenomena, the Aurora Australis, occurs near the south pole.) As the particles spiral they produce light at wavelengths from optical light to shorter wavelengths invisible to the human eye. But not invisible to the X-ray detectors on the Chandra X-ray Observatory. Ten times in 2004 Chandra pointed at the Earth's north pole, and detected X-ray emission associated with auroral activity. The image above shows arcs of X-rays as seen by Chandra superimposed on an image of the Earth.

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Each week the HEASARC brings you new, exciting and beautiful images from X-ray and Gamma ray astronomy. Check back each week and be sure to check out the HEAPOW archive!

Page Author: Dr. Michael F. Corcoran
Last modified Friday, 20-Apr-2012 15:26:05 EDT