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Aurora from space

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Uploaded on Jun 30, 2011

This is a movie of the aurora australis (southern lights) taken by NASA's IMAGE satellite. The auroral light emission occurs at roughly 100km altitude, within the Earth's ionosphere, as energetic electrons excite atmospheric gases such as Oxygen. We don't fully understand how the aurora are produced and ESA's Cluster satellites are now collecting data to answer this question.

Cluster is being used to probe the regions above
the aurora along which the energetic electrons must travel before they reach the atmosphere. Cluster will discover where these electron are accelerated, so that they have enough energy to make aurora. We need at least two spacecraft at different heights on the same magnetic field line to tackle this problem.

When the acceleration region or regions are identified, Cluster can tell us if waves, double layers or some other process causes the acceleration there.

Cluster 's unique observations will allow the first tests of a diverse set of theoretical ideas about what accelerates auroral electrons and thus produces the aurora.

This movie was taken on September 11, 2005, four days after a record-setting solar flare sent plasma—an ionized gas of protons and electrons—flying towards the Earth. The ring of light that the solar storm generated over Antarctica glows green in the ultraviolet part of the spectrum, shown in this image. The IMAGE observations of the aurora are overlaid onto NASA's satellite-based Blue Marble image. From the Earth's surface, the ring would appear as a curtain of light shimmering across the night sky. CREDIT: NASA

For more information visit this website: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD...

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