Northern Light Show Down Low

New Englanders who suffered through a spring blizzard last week came in for an equally rare, but far more delightful, treat last night: the aurora borealis. The spectacular show was put on by a cloud of solar particles that slammed into Earth yesterday evening (see yesterday's ScienceNOW item). Magnetic field data gathered this morning suggest the Earth took a direct hit from the cloud, says Nicola Fox of the Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

The particles lit up the night skies over much of Canada and the northern United States; one astronomer in Boston who ventured out to photograph the comet Hale-Bopp got to shoot the aurora instead. The image below, taken early this morning by the POLAR Ultraviolet satellite, shows the aurora dipping below the U.S.-Canada border. A film of the auroral display put together for the evening news broadcasts will appear on NASA's International Solar-Terrestrial Physics project Web site after 6 p.m. EDT.