Aurora above Lake Michigan

Between May 10 – 14, 2024 a series of powerful solar storms led to the production of visible aurorae far further towards the equator than normal. This photo, taken by CIERA Postdoctoral Fellow Meng Sun depicts the aurora visible over Lake Michigan.

Dr. Sun captured the shot on May 11 on a flight back from Charlotte, North Carolina. Aurorae are caused by energized particles generated by solar wind interacting with Earth’s magnetic field. The color of the auroral emission corresponds to the elements involved, which depend on atmospheric altitude. The yellow/green aurorae pictured here are characteristic of interactions with more concentrated oxygen molecules at lower altitudes (100-300km). Red and purple emission is visible from higher altitudes (>300km).

Dr. Sun specializes in stellar astrophysics, covering a range of projects that span diverse topics, from exoplanets to massive stars, and from young stars to evolved stars and compact objects.

Camera details: Canon EOS 6D + EF 24=105 lens @24mm, f/4, ISO 8000, exposure time 0.8 sec.

Credit: Meng Sun/CIERA/Northwestern

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