Photograph courtesy Andrew DallowAuroras light up the sky over Darfield, New Zealand, on July 10, a few days after a huge flare erupted from the sun.
Auroras are created when charged solar particles slam into Earth's magnetic field and get funneled poleward. The particles collide with molecules in our atmosphere, transferring energy and making the air molecules glow.
Green light, like the kind pictured here, is the product of the particles' collision with oxygen. The more reddish swaths are caused by interaction with nitrogen.
Photograph courtesy Francis AudetAuroras are mirrored in Lake St. Charles, near Quebec City, Canada, on July 19.
On a "spectacular evening," photographer Francis Audet canoed to the island, set up the shot, and waited "until then the magic happened," he said.
"What a beautiful sight with the sounds of nature all around me! A few minutes later, the yellow moon rose, the loons started to sing, and the faint auroras were lost in the glow."
As it turns out, the sounds of nature also include auroras—a new study may shed light on how the phenomena produce faint clapping sounds. (Read more about the sounds of the northern lights.)
Photograph courtesy Paul ZizkaLake Minnewanka in Canada's Banff National Park (pictured July 9) is a favorite aurora-gazing spot for photographer Paul Zizka, who watched as the "aurora danced on and off for hours."
"Most of the time it was barely visible to the naked eye, but now and then Mother Nature would put on a show that was hard to miss," he said in an email.
"The displays ranged from a very interesting, long-lasting pink streak directly overhead to wild green curls and purple pillars to the north and east."
(See "Aurora Pictures: Rare Northern Lights Seen in U.S. South.")
Image courtesy SDO/NASAA solar flare—such as the July 6 outburst (pictured) that triggered the recent auroras—is the sudden explosion that follows a release of pent-up magnetic energy.
If the jettisoned particles come from the part of the sun facing Earth at that moment, they're more likely to reach our atmosphere.
The tumultuous solar storm sparked on July 6 brought about a radio blackout, geomagnetic storms, and of course, auroras.
(See "Solar Flare: What If Biggest Known Sun Storm Hit Today?")
The Sun Also Rises
Photograph courtesy Paul NelsonSmooth as glass, Lake Superior reflects auroras on July 2.
Photographer Paul Nelson described the auroras as being clearly visible in spite of the fact that the moon was nearly full, according to spaceweather.com.
(See "Auroras Pictured in HD From High-Flying Balloons.")
Credits: National Geographic