Christmas Aurorae

24 Dec 2017

At  24th December we have news of a sprawling coronal hole that has sent us a nice Christmas present - an auroral display. It is not however a major geomagnetic event - but a rather minor one. More interesting is the meteor shower emanating from the asteroid Phaethon, described by Space Weather as a rocky comet. Phaethon came within 10 million km of the Earth  and the Pue space telescope picked up the images below. The arrow is pointing at a large concavity or depression. It also seems it is a bigger object than thought - with a diameter of 6km.

   Sprites dance on the top of electrical storms - and reach as high as the edge of space. This is known as upper atmospheric lightning. Gigantic jets are recognised as a more intense and powerful form of sprite, unknown until 2001/2002. Storm Harvey was the most prolific producer of jets (in that short space of time, 15 years) but they were also recorded just after Hurricane Maria devastated Peurto Rico. It is worthwhile pointing out the upper atmosphere is also populated by auroral phenomena, meteors, and noctilucent clouds, as well as sprites and jets.