New Delhi: The December 22nd Winter Solstice came and went. While people on Earth celebrated the 'first day of winter' and the shortest day turned into the longest night, American space agency NASA observed another celebration of sorts in space.
Merely hours after the solstice, a strong solar wind stream, whipped up after a mass of energetic particles from the Sun smashed into the magnetic field around Earth, stirred up a spectacular display of northern lights over northern Canada.
With the “day-night band” (DNB) of the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), the Suomi NPP satellite acquired an incredible view of the aurora borealis.
According to NASA, The DNB detects dim light signals such as auroras, airglow, gas flares, and reflected moonlight. In the case of the image above, the sensor detected the visible light emissions as energetic particles rained down from Earth’s magnetosphere and into the gases of the upper atmosphere.
The collision of solar particles and pressure into our planet’s magnetosphere accelerates particles trapped in the space around Earth (such as in the radiation belts). Those particles are sent crashing down into Earth’s upper atmosphere—at altitudes of 100 to 400 kilometers (60 to 250 miles)—where they excite oxygen and nitrogen molecules and release photons of light. The results are rays, sheets, and curtains of dancing light in the sky.
Even in black and white, the image looks stunning!