Other Planets have Aurorae too! Even Mars!

With all the talk of the large geomagnetic storm of the past few days, it’s important to understand that other worlds have beautiful auroral activity as well.  Being on Earth and seeing the gorgeous displays that result from our magnetic field protecting us from harmful solar radiation, the best views come from Earth.  But there are several other places in our own solar system that have aurora. Jupiter has a massive magnetic field, and its gigantic aurora are visible here. Jupiter’s moon Ganymede is the only moon in the solar system that has auroral activity. Saturn has its own, discovered...

St.Patrick’s Day Aurora Light up the Polar Nights!

Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) and Aurora Australis (Southern Lights) are the most beautiful result of the Earth protecting us from a horrible death by solar radiation.  Every time I see it, I marvel in the beauty and remind myself that I am still safe from being cooked by that giant ball of gas that is responsible for fundamentally fuelling all life on Earth.  So when we have a lot of auroral activity, I pop over to spaceweather to see if it will be visible from where I live. Though it usually isn’t, today’s aurora are potentially visible, so I might...

Another Liquid Ocean on a Moon? Time for Ganymede to Shine!

After reaching a deeper understanding of the subsurface ocean of Enceladus just yesterday, a stunning discovery has just been made about the largest Moon in the solar system.  The largest moon of Jupiter, Ganymede, contains a subsurface ocean of it’s own.  The discovery was made with the Hubble space telescope and a careful study of aurora on the giant moon. That’s right Ganymede has auroral activity.  This is because it is the only moon in the solar system with a magnetic field.  The magnetic field funnels radiation from the Sun toward the north and south poles, where it ionizes molecules...

Heliosphere Shaped by Solar Jets

The Sun is the driving force behind our planetary system.  It’s energy warms our planet, drives weather and climate patterns, and fuels the aurorae that surround our magnetic poles.  The Sun also has a much grander sphere of influence beyond the orbit of the Earth, stretching into the vast space between itself and the other members of the stellar neighbourhood. The charged particles that are released from the Sun, called the solar wind, stretch out to 120 Astronomical Units, about 18 Billion Km.  The bubble of the Sun’s influence is known as the Heliosphere, though it is anything but a...

The Sun has been going Insane lately!

The sun is definitely hitting its usual ‘rebellious’ phase on its 11 year sunspot cycle, where it flares up at literally everything. The biggest sunspot observed in 24 years has been releasing huge amounts of energy, in the form of X-class solar flares. In the past week this sunspot, designated AR 12192, has released 3 X-class flares, including a huge X-3.1 on Friday.  NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) has been watching the light show. Okay so the Sun is blowing up, what does all this mean? Let’s start with Sunspots.  A sunspot is a place on the sun where there...