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Northern Lights Dazzle Wisconsin Skies

For the third consecutive night a high speed solar wind-stream buffeted Earth's magnetic field creating dazzling displays of auroras.  Pictures of the Northern Lights from near the Arctic Circle have literally lit up social media the past couple of days.  Last night's solar storm; however, was strong enough to produce magnificent auroras as far south as Wisconsin.

Jake Stehli captured the pictures below just after midnight near Hartford, Wisconsin.  

A large coronal hole has rotated toward Earth and is sending a steady stream of charged particles (protons and electrons) in our direction.  This so-called, "solar wind" is especially intense when it flows from coronal holes... dark spots on the surface of the sun where the magnetic field is open. 

Once the solar wind particles reach the earth, about 2-4 days after emission, they interact with the Earth's magnetic field creating luminous bands and streamers in the sky.  This display is called the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, in the northern hemisphere.  Last night was the forecast peak of the current solar storm.     

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