Astronomy Picture of the Day

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.

April 18, 1997

Solar Storm Causes X-Ray Aurora

Explanation: On April 7, the SOHO spacecraft spotted a Solar Storm ejecting a cloud of energetic particles toward planet Earth. The plasma cloud's center missed Earth, but high energy particles swept up by Earth's magnetosphere still created a geomagnetic storm! Residents of northerly lattitudes were treated to the spectacle of brilliant aurora as curtains of green and white light danced across the sky. In this image from April 11, the Polar Ionospheric X-ray Imaging Experiment (PIXIE) onboard NASA's orbiting POLAR spacecraft records the strongest X-ray aurora seen in more than a year of operation. The false color image overlaying a map of North America reveals X-rays generated in the upper atmosphere by showers of high energy electrons.

Tomorrow's picture: Spiral Galaxy M83

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (MTU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA)
NASA Technical Rep.: Jay Norris. Specific rights apply.
A service of: LHEA at NASA/ GSFC
&: Michigan Tech. U.