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 September 15
See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download 
 the highest resolution version available.

Aurora In West Texas Skies
Credit & Copyright: Chris Grohusko

Explanation: The aurora borealis, or northern lights, are not a common sight in the southwestern United States. But a strong solar coronal mass ejection in early August triggered geomagnetic storms and aurora which were widely reported, even under west Texas skies. This striking view of the aurora was recorded from a site near El Paso, Texas and the Hueco Tanks State Historical Park at a latitude just shy of 32 degrees north. Polaris is the brightest star visible near the top and right of center while a Perseid meteor pierces the auroral glow left of picture center, below the bowl of the little dipper. Want to see an aurora? Dark skies and high latitudes (closer to the north or south poles) help. And you might keep an eye on the space weather report. The last big coronal mass ejection headed toward planet Earth was detected by space-based instruments on September 12. It may trigger geomagnetic storms and auroral activity beginning September 14th.

Tomorrow's picture: PIXIE Picture

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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.