NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day 27 March 2023: Geomagnetic storm sparks amazing auroras

NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day is a breathtaking image of auroras spread across the sky. Amazingly, it captures familiar constellations too.

| Updated on: Mar 27 2023, 12:23 IST
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1/5 M1 Crab Nebula (March 20) - Today’s NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day is the Messier 1, which was first discovered by Chinese astronomers in 1054. Also known as the Crab Nebula, it is located about 6500 light-years away towards the constellation of Taurus and spans about 10 light-years across. The Crab Nebula is now also known to be a supernova remnant, which are the remnants left behind after a supernova explosion. (NASA/Detlef Hartmann)
2/5 Dark Nebulae and the Taurus Molecular Cloud (March 21) - is a fascinating snapshot of the dark nebulae and the star formation in the Taurus Molecular Cloud (TMC). Located about 400 light-years away, TMC is one of the closest molecular clouds to our solar system. The Taurus Molecular Cloud is also home to Hind's Variable Nebula (NGC 1555) about 650 light-years away as well as the star T Tauri. (NASA/Vikas Chander)
3/5 The Andromeda Galaxy (March 22) - Today’s NASA Astronomy Picture of the Day is the Andromeda Galaxy. According to NASA, the Andromeda Galaxy is twice the size of our own Milky Way Galaxy, spanning across nearly 260,000 light-years and containing over 1 trillion stars. (NASA/Abdullah Al-Harbi)
4/5 Spiral Galaxy NGC 2841 (March 23) - It is the Spiral Galaxy, also known as NGC 2841. It is an unbarred spiral galaxy located about 46 million light-years away in the constellation of Ursa Major, which is also known as the Great Bear. According to NASA, NGC 2841 has a relatively low star formation rate as of now, in comparison to other spirals that are alight with emission nebulae. (NASA/Roberto Marinoni)
5/5 Comet ZTF and the stars of Milky Way (March 24) - It is a picture of Comet ZTF fading away in the sky. According to NASA, it is now 13.3 light-minutes away from Earth and will go on its way before it makes another approach with Earth 50000 years into the future. The comet can be seen alongside stars of the Milky Way Galaxy towards the constellation Eridanus. (NASA/Rolando Ligustri)
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Aurora-filled night sky with famous constellations. (Image Credit & Copyright: Cari Letelier)

In the past couple of days, you may have seen images of auroras shared by people on social media. The sudden surge in auroras is due to a large hole in the Sun's corona that resulted in a strong geomagnetic storm on Earth. Resultantly, millions of people in the US witnessed the magnificent Northern Lights triggered by this incident, which served as the catalyst. Even NASA's Astronomy Picture of the Day for March 27 is dedicated to a mesmerizing view of an Aurora over the Arctic.

The image is set at the peaks of the iconic Arctic Henge in Raufarhofn in northern Iceland and it shows the aurora-filled sky aligned with various other stars. It says, "Some are lined up toward the exact north from one side and toward the exact south from the other."

The featured image was taken after sunset late last month. NASA explains while sharing the photo that, "it looks directly south, but since the composite image covers so much of the sky, the north star Polaris is actually visible at the very top of the frame." You can also see some familiar constellations including the Great Bear (Ursa Major) on the left, and the Hunter (Orion) on the lower right.

"The quest was successful. The sky lit up dramatically with bright and memorable auroras that shimmered with amazing colours including red, pink, yellow, and green -- sometimes several at once," NASA added.

How do auroras form?

The auroras are formed by streams of electrified particles trapped in the Earth's magnetic field, which are emitted by the Sun. NASA explains that when a solar storm comes in the direction of the Earth, some of the energy and small particles travel down the magnetic field lines at the north and south poles into Earth's atmosphere. Resultantly, when charged particles from the sun collide with the planet's magnetic field, geomagnetic storms occur.

These particles converge above the poles by the Earth's magnetic field lines, which is why we observe auroras in these areas. Auroras appearing at the northern pole of the Earth are commonly known as Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis, similarly, the auroras on the South Pole are called Southern lights, or Aurora Australis.

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First Published Date: 27 Mar, 12:23 IST