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ELECTRON STORM: The number of energetic electrons in Earth's outer radiation belt is significantly elevated. According to analysts at the Goddard Space Weather Lab, the enhancement is caused by the aftermath of recent geomagnetic storms mixed with a high-speed solar wind stream. "Spacecraft at GEO, MEO and other orbits passing through or in the vicinity of the Earth's outer radiation belt can be impacted," they say.
FIRST DAY OF NORTHERN SPRING: The seasons are changing. Today, March 20th, the sun crossed the celestial equator heading north. This marks the beginning of Spring in the northern hemisphere and Autumn in the southern hemisphere. At this time of year, day and night are of nearly equal length, hence the name "equinox" (equal night).
Good news for sky watchers: Spring is aurora season. For reasons not fully understood by researchers, the weeks around equinoxes are prone to Northern Lights. "With the exception of one cloudy night we have now seen the auroras 16 nights in a row," reports aurora tour guide Chad Blakley from the Abisko National Park in Sweden. "What a season!" He snapped this picture on March 19th:
"I combined some of the photos to make a time-lapse movie," says Blakley. "It was another great night in Abisko!"
NOAA forecasters estimate a 20% chance of polar geomagnetic storms tonight. The odds of auroras, however, might be even better. Happy Equinox! Aurora alerts: text, phone.
more images: from Nenne Åman of Arjeplog, Sweden; from Dirk Obudzinski of Steese National Conservation Area, Alaska; from B.Art Braafhart of Salla, Finnish Lapland; from Larry Jenkins of Labrador City, NL Canada; from Jónína Óskarsdóttir of Faskrudsfjordur, Iceland; from Peter Scott of Durness, Scotland, UK; from Francis Anderson of Tuktoyaktuk, Northwest Territories Canada;
TRANSITIONS: So much can change in a single moment. This morning in Veszprem, Hungary, Monika Landy-Gyebnar photographed the sun as it moved across the celestial equator, suddenly transforming winter to spring:
"Spring began at 05:14 UT today, which happened some minutes after today's sunnrise," she explains. "I photographed the sun during these moments and caught the change of seasons. I was lucky as clouds came soon after."
more springshots: from John Stetson of Falmouth, Maine;
February 2012 Aurora Gallery
[previous Februaries: 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2004, 2003, 2002]