Spectacular Light Show May Be Visible From Your Hot Tub Tonight

August 3, 2010

Attention hot tubbers in Puget Sound. It’s a clear night. Go soak in your Hot Spring Spa, look north and watch for a rare light show.

Here’s why: Earth is bracing for a cosmic tsunami tonight night as tons of plasma from a massive solar flare head directly toward our planet. That’s a photo of the sun “waking up” and shooting  a wall of ionized atoms directly at Earth. Scientists say it is expected to create a geomagnetic storm and a spectacular light show after Sunday’s sun eruption.

“This eruption is directed right at us and is expected to get here early in the day on Aug. 4,” said Leon Golub of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. “It’s the first major Earth-directed eruption in quite some time.”

The solar eruption, called a coronal mass ejection, was spotted by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which captures high-definition views of the sun at a variety of wavelengths. “We got a beautiful view of this eruption,” Golub said. “And there might be more beautiful views to come if it triggers aurorae.”

Views of aurorae (northern lights) are usually associated with Canada and Alaska, but skywatchers in the northern U.S. mainland are being told they can look toward the north Tuesday and Wednesday evenings for rippling “curtains” of green and red light.

Here’s the science part: When a coronal mass ejection reaches Earth, solar particles stream down our planet’s magnetic field lines toward the poles. In the process, the particles collide with atoms of nitrogen and oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere, which then glow, creating an effect similar to miniature neon signs.

Take a look and let us know if you’re able to see this light show. Even if you don’t see the light show, you’ll see masses of stars and that’s always a good thing.

RES EST SEVERA VOLUPTAS. Latin for pleasure is serious business.

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