Northern lights join meteors in dazzling sky display
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Northern Lights over Hahn's Peak in Colorado
(CNN) -- A bright burst of the aurora borealis over much of
North America briefly upstaged the Perseid meteor showers, an
annual light show that fills the night skies for much of
A shock wave from the sun set off the display of the Northern
Lights, just as the Perseids peaked over the weekend.
Meteor watchers in Canada and the United States as far south
as Los Angeles received an unusual visual bonus as they
scanned the skies for shooting stars.
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"Bright red, green and blue curtains and fountains seemed to
pour out of top of Hahn's Peak," said Jimmy Westlake, a
physicist who camped out with friends near an extinct volcano
north of Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
Members of the Colorado Mountain College sky club "watched
the meteors and aurora all night long," Westlake said.
Pair of coronal mass ejections August 9-10, as imaged by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO)
The shock wave that fueled the August 12 Northern Lights
probably came from a coronal mass ejection that erupted from
the sun on August 9, astronomers said.
The Perseids, noted for their colorful, long-lasting trails,
normally put on one of the best meteor showers each year.
Observers this year could see as many as 100 shooting stars
each hour during optimal viewing times, according to NASA.
Seeming to stream from the vicinity of the constellation
Perseus, the meteors vaporize along the edge of the
atmosphere as the Earth passes through a cloud of debris from
the comet Swift-Tuttle.
The meteors burn as bright as stars in the Big Dipper, but
are usually smaller than grains of dust. Nonetheless they
smack into the Earth's "windshield" at considerable speeds,
often exceeding 130,000 mph (209,000 km/h).
The showers officially extend until August 22.
Another strong solar flare heads toward Earth
July 14, 2000
Solar eruptions could spark 'northern lights' this week
July 12, 2000
Solar shock wave causes surprise aurora display
April 7, 2000
Sun-like stars said to emit superflares
January 8, 1999
Colorado Mountain College
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