Solar Active Region 3664

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 was taken by CIERA graduate student Imran Sultan, amateur astrophotographer and member of Professor Claude-André Faucher-Giguère‘s research group.

Sultan took this photo on May 10 in Evanston. Pictured on the right is Solar Active Region 3664, the massive sunspot responsible for the following weekend’s aurorae. The active region produced huge Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs). When these reach Earth they produce geomagnetic storms.

Aurorae are caused by these storms’ energized particles interacting with Earth’s magnetic field. The color of the auroral emission corresponds to the elements involved, which depend on atmospheric altitude. Red and purple emission 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).

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