September 21, 2010

Canada Launches Aurora-Viewing Website

On Monday, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) rolled out a new online observatory that will allow people from around the world to watch the aurora borealis live on the World Wide Web.

According to a CSA press release, the space agency has teamed with the University of Calgary, the City of Yellowknife and Astronomy North to offer live streaming video of the northern lights through the AuroraMAX web portal. Furthermore, the website will provide visitors with tips for viewing and photographing the auroras, as well as detailing the science behind the polar light displays.

"Armchair skywatchers everywhere can now discover the wonder of the northern lights live on their home computer screen," CSA President Steve MacLean said in a statement on Monday. "We hope that watching the dance of the northern lights will make you curious about the science of the sky and the relationship we have with our own star, the Sun."

The website launch comes shortly after the start of aurora season in northern Canada, which typically occurs in late August or early September and lasts until May of the following year. Auroras are the result of a collision between charged particles from the Sun and gases in the upper atmosphere of Earth, and according to the CSA press release, Internet-enabled enthusiasts will be able to use AuroraMAX as the Sun reaches the most active period in its 11-year cycle in 2013.

The aurora borealis was named in honor of the Roman goddess of dawn (Aurora) and the Greek name for the northern winds (Boreas) by a 17th century French scientist and philosopher named Pierre Gassendi. It typically resembles greenish white ribbons that stretch across the sky, and according to NASA, the phenomenon was observed by ancient Greek and Chinese cultures and had previously been named by Inuit and Scandinavian peoples as far back as 700 A.D.

Image Courtesy NASA


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