Follow Arctic and Antarctic research news through the new Facebook page of the National Science Foundation's Division of Polar Programs. The recently launched page carries stunning pictures and updates on the U.S. polar programs, north and south.
Aurorae, named for the Roman goddess of dawn, are a natural phenomenon occurring when charged particles, mostly electrons from the sun, enter the earth’s atmosphere where they are directed toward the polar regions by the Earth’s magnetic field.
Several folks sent a link to Spaceweather.com today because another image by Ed Stockard (long-time colleague and frequent field notes contributor) was featured on the site. Ed shot the image earlier this week at Summit Station during a period of intense solar wind activity.
Astronauts aboard the space shuttle Atlantis got a light show worthy of the shuttle's historic last flight a few days ago. As the above shot attests, from the International Space Station the astronauts witnessed the Aurora Australis light up Earth's skin.
Turns out, the atmosphere is a lot more dynamic and complicated than a parfait (or even an onion). Professor Jeffrey Thayer’s ARCLITE (Arctic LiDAR Technology) NSF-funded project uses remote sensing techniques to figure out just how complicated the atmosphere really is.
On first thought, it might be hard to find much in common with the depths of the Arctic Ocean and outer space. But think again. Both are extreme environments that hold any number of secrets for scientists to uncover.