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Desktop Wallpaper: Northern lights

International Space Station

The Aurora Borealis or “northern lights” and the Manicouagan Impact Crater reservoir (foreground) in Quebec, Canada, were featured in this photograph taken by astronaut Donald R. Pettit, Expedition Six NASA ISS science officer, on board the International Space Station (ISS).

NASA

About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

41 comments
sir.ptl
sir.ptl

During the IGY in 1957, the Aurora was so intense  I was seen so far south as Mexico City.


PS - My job was to collect data on the Aurora during the time when they were trying to establish the Solar Wind theory.

sir.ptl
sir.ptl

The Aurora is not about cold weather, it's about the amount of ambient light in the sky where you are.

sir.ptl
sir.ptl

Having spent quite a bit of time in the Arctic of Alaska and the Yukon in my younger days, the Aurora is most active about 27 days after an intense day of solar flair activity. Also the best time for Auroral viewing  is aroung midnight and during a year when the sun is most active, generally about every seven years. Back in the day we called that an International Geophysical Year (IGY). Just some info for those who are interested.

fernblatt7
fernblatt7

While there are tons of high-res large photos archived at NASA's spaceweather.com I also found a very large (1502x1127, high res, good detail) photo of the Near Earth Network station photo at another NASA site, esc.gsfc.nasa.gov/assets/images/Svalbard.png

billlizewski
billlizewski

How do I download these six images as a revolving slide show?

Slayer_
Slayer_

I have never seen the lights in red before, but the pictures don't show how the real thing dances in the sky. That is what makes them really neat, is that they can be there one moment, then they can shoot across the sky and disappear or change shape near instantly.

simplifried
simplifried

Earlier I noted that I had never witnessed a display of the Aurora Borealis while growing up in Oklahoma, but that my first trip to Canada on the first night out of the canoe bivouac, we saw a great display. I did not mean that I was doubtful about whether the phenomena could be viewed from Oklahoma. I have no doubt that it can be. Just all depends on the conditions. I've only seen them on one other occasion and I was on a fishing trip near Katmai. Awe inspiring.

davesden
davesden

I wish the skys in the southern hemisphere lit up like this

Vineet369
Vineet369

Its my dream to one day visit the North Pole, just to witness the Aurora. And one day I am gonna fulfill the dream. Thanks for the pictures, which will now decorate my desktop.

randolphyoung
randolphyoung

When I flew back from Anchorage Alaska one night I was seeing them first hand. BEAUTIFUL can't describe it. They were flashing around changing colors. TOTALLY AWSOME! Makes you really think about the Creator of Heaven and Earth Jehovah God.

DODYONE
DODYONE

absolutely breathtaking. beauty at its finest

ksprbob
ksprbob

I feel the northern lights are so incredible I just love them.

cjb40
cjb40

How can you not like the deep, rich, vibrant colors! I think it's great. But at the same time, I agree it's pretty grainy but I'm using it anyway!

?vatar
?vatar

I hope you all realize the significance of an Aurora as far south as Oklahoma. This is not trivial. The green glow is ionized oxygen, I can't remember what red is, probably ionized nitrogen. When the Sun's solar wind overcomes Earth's Van Allen belts, energy streams to the poles and usually stays there. Hence - the Aurora And Australis prefixes. Chill and marvel.

Artymonn
Artymonn

Get a better camera or allow us to download the full picture that was shot. If it was with a camera phone as it looks like, what a shame to be there and only have that to record these great views.

Artymonn
Artymonn

Great shots but lack sharpness. Very grainy and a waist of our time to view. Maybe the person that took them should get a camera with over 3 mega Pixels. Very sad I could not add this to my screen as a nice wallpaper.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

Although I don't know if you're far enough south to see them. Google 'aurora australis'

sir.ptl
sir.ptl

@Vineet369 You don't have to go that far. depending on where you are you can go to Alaska, Greenland, Iceland, northern Scandinavia, Russia, etc.

carlson1
carlson1

@Vineet369 you don't need to go to the North Pole to see good aurora, in fact the expense would take all the pleasure out of it. We see aurora very often [weekly] here in Edmonton, some better than others. Bonus you can fly here on a commercial jet and stay in a hotel for reasonable rates. Dress warm, auroras are best viewed on clear crisp [-20C] nights. We even have an aurora watch site [http://www.aurorawatch.ca/] so you will know when to be ready and how good they will be.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

I heard about it later over the next couple of days on NPR and at least one other radio news network.

boomchuck1
boomchuck1

I've seen pictures of Aurora from San Diego. It is rare, but if there is a significantly large CME (Coronal Mass Ejection) it does happen. It's not going to be the same thing as being in Fairbanks, AK, but it will be visible. If you know it's happening then a 15 second exposure, or more, with your camera will enhance the colors. Here's a link to an aurora photo from the Anza-Borrego Desert in S Cal. http://dennismammana.com/gallery/AUR-05-002.htm

cawwilsontx
cawwilsontx

About 15 years ago I saw a sky like the pic of the pink sky in Anchorage shown here. It was in the mountains of southern New Mexico at about 6600 ft elevation. 33 degrees 19' N latitude.

W5JGV
W5JGV

Well, about 25 years ago, I remember a very intense deep red aurora that was visible in New Orleans, Louisiana. It covered the sky from the northern horizon to directly overhead. I was working at WWL-TV at the time, and we all rushed up to the rooftop to get a better view. Even though we were located in the heart of the city, with all the usual bright lights, the aurora was so bright that it looked like the sky was aflame. Out weatherman was unhappy, because he was color blind to red, and could not see anything at all! I remember that we received hundreds of phone calls asking us what was burning and where the fire was. That was quite a night! Ralph W5JGV

simplifried
simplifried

I grew up in Oklahoma and never saw one.On my first trip to Canda, on the very first night out of the bivouac, we had a display that I will never ever forget. As to these photos, I found them to be more than adequate and applaudable. But then, in this day and age, everyone is a critic.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen moderator

It's Aurora Borealis in the north and Aurora Australis in the south.

Papa_Bill
Papa_Bill

@Artymonn 

They won't look any better in a higher resolution. The aurorae have no visible detail, anyway.

fernblatt7
fernblatt7

Might take a look at the NASA website spaceweather.com - there is a very large gallery of aurorae, plus larger size photos than shown above.

seanferd
seanferd

It isn't a cartoon, it's reality.

PadMacs
PadMacs

Artymonn Good Eye. These shots are hard to get as the Camera must be on a Timer, a Stand and shot at a Very Slow Speed. Plus a fairly good Camera would help. padman Edmonton, Alberta

1020305
1020305

I was working in NC Nebraska at the time and it covered the whole northern half of the sky. It was one of the most spectacular natural events I've witnessed.

ITOdeed
ITOdeed

These same lights were also visible in the Keys. At the time we all thought it was some kind of secret military experiment that had painted the night sky red. Found out later it was only the aurora.

AnsuGisalas
AnsuGisalas

and of grumpy people commenting on free material ;) In the first, exposure times are long. In the latter, exposure does them no favors.

seanferd
seanferd

Off the top of my head, I'm pretty sure aurorae were seen in in Florida in 2000. Not sure if the 2003 events were visible in FL or not.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

South Carolina is too far south for us to have seen this event live, and I recall it was cloudy that night anyway. These are the first photos I've seen of it. The question of quality doesn't enter into my appreciation, as these photos bring me closer to what I missed than likely anything else will. No, they're not perfect, but they greatly improve my previous condition of having seen nothing at all. If they're not good enough for some of you, I'd appreciate the links to your own superior photos. Otherwise, quit complaining; something is better than nothing. You remind me of the guy who complained about his checker-playing dog because the mutt lost three games out of every five.