red sprites blaze in the sky

Sprites: The Aurora’s Flashy Cousins

They dance above the clouds but below the aurora, crimson fingers stretching up and down, bursting like fireworks then vanishing in the blink of an eye. Sprites, brief flashes of red and purple light associated with lightning, are some of the least-understood electrical phenomena in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. Even though globally there are 30-100[…]

A woman and two men stand in a field near trees, mountains, and a gathering of people.

Relationship With the Sun

Since time immemorial, humanity has developed a deep and multifaceted relationship with our nearest star. While each culture expresses that bond in its own way, humans share millennia of solar observation. The Sun makes life on Earth possible, and its ever-changing nature affects our daily lives. What does the Sun mean to you? In Kiuġuyat:[…]

Bright discrete, and dim diffuse aurora

What Is Discrete Aurora? (It’s Not Discreet!)

While “discreet” means something that is a little bit secretive or unobtrusive, “discrete” auroras are distinct, bright, narrow bands—most commonly, photos of auroras are of this type. They typically have a definite lower border and can stretch high into the sky, like curtains, when viewed from the side. From below they are very narrow. They[…]

book cover

Summer (or Winter!) Aurora Reading List

It’s June, the season for graduations and vacations. Whether you’re soaking up the sun at the beach, curling up in a cozy cabin, or enjoying an evening at home, we’ve pulled together a reading list of fantastic books that explore aurora science and citizen science using words and descriptions that are easy to understand. If[…]

The Chenille Stem Magnetosphere designed by Dr. Alexa Halford provides a 3D, tactile illustration of the Earth's magnetosphere

Fuzzy, Crafty Models of Aurora Science (Literally!)

One of the challenges of learning about aurora science is that so much is invisible or abstract. Fortunately, it’s not hard to make models of some concepts out of easy-to-find materials. In this post, we walk you through two easy do-it-yourself (DIY) projects that use nothing fancier than chenille stems (also called pipecleaners), paper, markers,[…]

A box highlights a tiny fragment of the sky

A Sky Full of Chocolate Sauce: Citizen Science with Aurora Zoo

by Dr. Liz MacDonald and Laura Brandt Originally posted to the Zooniverse blog Viewing the aurora in person is a magnificent experience, but due to location (or pesky clouds) it’s not always an option. Fortunately, citizen science projects like Aurorasaurus and Zooniverse’s Aurora Zoo make it easy to take part in aurora research from any[…]

A person wearing an N95-style mask looks through a large bank of windows at aurora

Like an Outdoor Nightclub: Q&A on Pulsating Auroras

Originally posted to NASA’s The Sun Spot blog NASA’s citizen science projects are collaborations between scientists and interested members of the public. Through these collaborations, volunteers known as citizen scientists have helped make thousands of important scientific discoveries. Aurorasaurus is one such project that tracks auroras around the world in real time via reports on[…]

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Be a Rocket Citizen Scientist: Help Study Pulsating Aurora!

On February 24, running through March 10, 2022, the watch begins for the perfect opportunity to launch a sounding rocket into a common but rarely-viewed type of aurora: the pulsating aurora. The NASA Loss through Auroral Microburst Pulsations (LAMP) mission will send instruments high above the auroral light. Read on to find out what the[…]

A Jeopardy contestant is next to a screen that reads "The Sun's corona propels this stream of particles continuously at hundreds of miles per second."

Daily Double: Solar Wind

We were excited to see “what is the solar wind” featured recently as a Daily Double on JEOPARDY! While the contestant missed the answer (oops!) it raises a valid point: the solar wind is an often misunderstood thing, and can be challenging to communicate. In this blog post, we’ll pull together some resources so that[…]

A pair of earrings have red, then green and blue, then a little bit of pink colors, corresponding with aurora

HelioCrafts: Aurora Color Earrings

Hi! Laura here. Over the past two years, I’ve been learning about the world of heliophysics—the science of the Sun and its relationship with the planets, which includes the auroras. Aurora science gets very abstract very quickly, so as someone without a science background I’ve found it helpful to build models of some of the[…]