Aurora Borealis from the Day-Night Band

On 6 March 2012, a massive solar flare erupted and an associated coronal mass ejection was launched toward Earth. Video of the solar flare from NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory can be viewed here. NOAA’s Space Weather Center forecast the coronal mass ejection to reach Earth on 8 March 2012, which you can view here. In another video, Joe Kunchas of the Space Weather Prediction Center talks about the solar flare, coronal mass ejection and possible impacts of the these events – including re-routing of aircraft, the effect on electric power grids and the best conditions to view the aurora. ABC News made it sound like the world was going to end.

Fortunately, the world did not come to an end and Suomi NPP sufferend no significant ill effects from the solar activity. In fact, the Day/Night band on VIIRS caught the aurora borealis, even in the presence of a full moon.

VIIRS DNB image, 9:16 UTC 9 March 2012

VIIRS Day/Night band image of the aurora over Saskatchewan and Manitoba, 9 March 2012

The Day/Night band (DNB) is a visible-wavelength band, centered at 0.7 ┬Ám, that is highly sensitive to low levels of light, so that it behaves like a visible channel even at night when the moon is out. As seen in the image, the DNB clearly shows the location of towns and cities at night. Since 8 March 2012 was a full moon, clouds, snow and ice (particularly over Lake Winnipeg) are also visible. The brightest swirl, extending from north of Saskatoon, over Reindeer Lake and into northwestern Manitoba is the aurora borealis.

On its previous orbit, the DNB captured the aurora over Ontario and Quebec, although it is more difficult to distinguish from the underlying clouds.

VIIRS DNB image taken at 7:35 UTC, 9 March 2012

A VIIRS Day/Night band image taken at 7:35 UTC, 9 March 2012

In this image, the bright swirls extending from north-central Ontario, over James Bay and into northern Quebec are elements of the aurora. It is expected that auroras would be more visible in the DNB during new moon events, where the aurora would be the only light source (apart from cities, towns and other point-source human activity).

Many amateur and professional photographers got a good look at the auroras, including this video taken from the shores of Lake Superior and this one taken near Wasilla, Alaska. Imagine if we had two more DNB channels at shorter wavelengths, so that we could capture the amazing colors of the aurora that these videos show.

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