First Tuesday: The Aurora Borealis w/ Shane Larson

First Tuesday: The Aurora Borealis w/ Shane Larson

When: Tuesday, August 6 at 7pm
Where: TBD

FIRE IN THE SKY: Secrets of the Earth's Aurorae

There are few phenomena in nature as widely recognized or admired as the aurora borealis -- the "Northern Lights." Seen as scintillating curtains and swaths of light in the night sky, they are most readily visible in the far north and far southern regions of Earth (the "Southern Lights" are called the aurora australis). Occasionally, there is a "space weather event" and the aurora can be visible as far south as the continental United States. What causes these fantastic displays of light? What do the colors mean, and why do they constantly shift and change? These are questions that have been asked about the aurora for many generations of humans, but modern astronomy has revealed that they are a stunning result of Earth's intimate connection to the Sun and the winds of particles that stream through the solar system.

In this talk, we'll chat about the nature of these fantastic displays of light, and find out where they are visible on Earth and elsewhere in the solar system. We'll discuss what they tell us about Earth's immersion in the maelstrom of cosmic weather, and what we can learn about the Sun and its influence on us and our small planet.

This event is free and open to the public. Reach out to Bridger with any questions about the event.


Shane Larson is a research professor of physics at Northwestern University, where he is the Associate Director of CIERA (Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics). He works in the field of gravitational wave astrophysics, specializing in studies of compact stars, binaries, and the galaxy with both the ground-based LIGO project, and future space-based observatory LISA. He grew up in Eastern Oregon, and was formerly a tenured associate professor of physics at Utah State University. He is an award winning teacher, and a Fellow of the American Physical Society. In addition to his career as a professional astronomer, he is an avid amateur astronomer, observing with homebuilt telescopes: a 12.5" named EQUINOX, a 16" named CALYPSO, and a 22" named COSMOS MARINER. He contributes regularly to a public science blog at, and tweets with the handle @sciencejedi.

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