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.

2000 August 17
Mount Megantic Magnetic Storm
Credit & Copyright: Sebastien Gauthier
(Observatoire Astronomique du Mont-Megantic)

Explanation: Plasma from the Sun and debris from a comet both collided with planet Earth last Saturday morning triggering magnetic storms and a meteor shower in a dazzling atmospheric spectacle. The debris stream from comet Swift-Tuttle is anticipated yearly, and many skygazers already planned to watch the peak of the annual Perseids meteor shower in the dark hours of August 11/12. But the simultaneous, widely reported auroras were triggered by the chance arrival of something much less predictable -- a solar coronal mass ejection. This massive bubble of energetic plasma was seen leaving the active Sun's surface on August 9, just in time to travel to Earth and disrupt the planet's magnetic field triggering extensive auroras during the meteor shower's peak! Inspired by the cosmic light show, Sebastien Gauthier photographed the colorful auroral displays above the dramatic dome of the Mount-Megantic Popular Observatory in southern Quebec, Canada. Bright Jupiter and giant star Aldebaran can be seen peering through the shimmering northern lights at the upper right.

Tomorrow's picture: meanwhile ...

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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.