Northern Lights Burst Captured on Film

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 18 (UPI) — Cameras for the first time have filmed waves of aurora borealis colliding to produce spectacular bursts of light, scientists in California said.

“Our jaws dropped when we saw the movies for the first time. These outbursts are telling us something very fundamental about the nature of auroras,” space scientist Larry Lyons of the University of California, Los Angeles, said in a release Thursday.

The images have been captured since December 2007 by a network of NASA cameras spread across thousands of miles around the Arctic.

Each burst of light was preceded by a broad wave, or curtain, of slow-moving auroras and a smaller knot of fast-moving auroras, initially far apart. The slow curtain hung almost immobile while the fast-moving knot rushed in from the north to collide with the slow curtain and produce a blast of light.

The collisions occurred on such a vast scale that isolated observers, with limited fields of view, had never noticed them before, said Lyons, who led the expedition team.

Movies of the phenomenon were shown Thursday at the meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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