Every March, aurora spring taunts science. Persistent cheekiness flies in the face of conventional wisdom – inexplicably, sudden auroras erupt with alarming intensity. “Auroral substorms” herald the return of northern hemisphere Spring. In 2007 NASA launched the THEMIS mission (Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms), five identical satellites lined up to detect streams of plasma and cosmic particles.
“The satellites have detected magnetic ‘ropes’ connecting Earth’s upper atmosphere directly to the Sun,” says Dave Sibeck, project scientist for the mission at the Goddard Space Flight Center. “We believe that solar wind particles flow in along these ropes, providing energy for geomagnetic storms and auroras.”
Leaving science to hunt substorm’s elusive key – treat yourself to four and a half minutes of the “world’s first real time northern lights”. Unadulterated, void of timelapse pageantry – a catch your breath audience with aurora spring.