Aurora in Virginia

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 captures a pinkish aurora in Virginia.

Dr. Sun captured the shot on May 10 from Chris Greene Lake Park in Charlottesville, Virginia, where she attended graduate school. 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 red and purple emission pictured here is visible from higher altitudes (>300km), and involve interactions with less concentrated oxygen molecules.¬†Yellow/green aurorae are characteristic of interactions with more concentrated oxygen at lower altitudes (100-300km).

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, 24-105 f/4L IS USM lens, with tripod.

Credit: Meng Sun/CIERA/Northwestern

  • Science