A new NASA video from a spacecraft that sees the sun has captured a spectacular view of solar flares erupting from the star this week just before Halloween.
The video, taken by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Orbiter, shows fascinating close-ups of solar flares blowing from the sun between Monday and Thursday (October 25-28), ending with a large X1 class solar storm that could amplify Earth’s Northern Lights exhibits on Halloween weekend.
Brighter than a glittering ghost, faster than a flick of a black cat’s tail, the sun threw a spell in our direction, just in time for Halloween, “NASA officials wrote in a video description.
Related: The wrath of the sun: The worst solar storms in history
Do you see the northern lights?
If you take a photo of Halloween’s Northern Lights from the solar flare, send photos and comments in to [email protected].
The video begins with a series of solar flares on Monday from an active area on the left limb (or side) of the sun that “flickered with a series of small flares and petal-like eruptions of solar material,” NASA officials wrote.
Perhaps more impressive was the X1 solar eruption, which exploded Thursday from a sunspot in the lower part of the sun, directly facing Earth. X-class flares are the most powerful types of solar storms the sun can have.
“Solar eruptions are powerful eruptions of radiation,” NASA officials wrote in the video description. “Harmful radiation from a flare can not pass through the Earth’s atmosphere to physically affect humans on Earth, but – when they are intense enough – they can disrupt the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communication signals travel.”
The Solar Dynamics Orbiter is part of a fleet of different spacecraft that constantly track the sun’s weather for such storms.
Thursday’s flare was accompanied by a radiation storm and a massive eruption of solar material, called a coronal mass ejection that flung charged solar particles out at over 2.5 million mph (4 million km / h). These particles were to reach Earth this weekend and be able to leave the planet’s northern lights, also known as the northern and southern lights.
The Earth’s northern lights occur when charged particles from the sun interact with the upper atmosphere, causing an ethereal glow. Earth’s magnetic field sends these particles toward polar regions, so they are typically visible at high, northern latitudes in our hemisphere.
But the extra particles from Thursday’s solar storm could amplify the northern lights to make them visible from much further south, possibly as far south as New York, Idaho, Illinois, Oregon, Maryland and Nevada, NASA scientists have said.
It can be difficult to see the northern lights if you live near city lights, as light pollution can wash out the glow and they will certainly not be as dazzling as screens seen at high latitudes or by astronauts in space.
For tips on how to capture Northern Lights on camera, check out our guides on where and how to shoot Northern Lights, as well as the best Northern Lights photography equipment and how to edit Northern Lights images when you have them.
And camera equipment is what you need, consider our best cameras for astrophotography and best lenses for astrophotography.
Editor’s note: If you’re taking a great picture of the Northern Lights this weekend, let us know. You can send photos and comments to [email protected].