Earth Aurora (Auroral X-ray emission observed from Earth’s north polar region.)

Earth Aurora (Auroral X-ray emission observed from Earth’s north polar region.)

Description: The bright arcs in this Chandra image show low-energy X-rays (0.1 – 10 kilo electron volts) generated during auroral activity. The image – seen here superimposed on a simulated image of Earth – is from an approximately 20-minute scan during which Chandra was pointed at a fixed point in the sky while the Earth’s motion carried the auroral region through the field of view. Auroras are produced by solar storms that disturb Earth’s magnetic field and accelerate electrons which speed along the magnetic field into the polar regions. There the electrons collide with atoms high in Earth’s atmosphere and emit X-rays.

Creator/Photographer: Chandra X-ray Observatory

NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, which was launched and deployed by Space Shuttle Columbia on July 23, 1999, is the most sophisticated X-ray observatory built to date. The mirrors on Chandra are the largest, most precisely shaped and aligned, and smoothest mirrors ever constructed. Chandra is helping scientists better understand the hot, turbulent regions of space and answer fundamental questions about origin, evolution, and destiny of the Universe. The images Chandra makes are twenty-five times sharper than the best previous X-ray telescope. NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., manages the Chandra program for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate in Washington. The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory controls Chandra science and flight operations from the Chandra X-ray Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Medium: Chandra telescope x-ray

Date: 2005

Repository: Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory

Gift line: NASA/MSFC/CXC/A.Bhardwaj & R.Elsner, et al.; Earth model: NASA/GSFC/L.Perkins & G.Shirah

Accession number: earth

3 thoughts on “Earth Aurora (Auroral X-ray emission observed from Earth’s north polar region.)

  1. Picture Esk
    Picture Esk says:

    I have not seen an auroral event as viewed from space before, very interesting.
    But if the aurora is a product of the Earth’s magnetic field, would it not have been better to have superimposed the image on a plan of the Earth showing the magnetic north pole? Your image shows lines of longitude and latitude from the geographic north pole. If the magnetic north pole was added to the image, then the pattern of the aurora would make more sense, as it appears to lie in an arc at a constant radius from the pole.

  2. kimberlyarcand
    kimberlyarcand says:

    Thanks for the interesting suggestion. It certainly makes sense from the
    viewpoint of scientific explanation to do this, but from an esthetic
    viewpoint we like to limit the number of labels or artificial elements in
    our main images. As it is, the image of the Earth shown here is

    Kim for Chandra.

  3. monophysite57-zzz
    monophysite57-zzz says:


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