CME IMPACT + MICROBIAL LIGHTS: A coronal mass ejection hit Earth's magnetic field on Jan. 19th at approximately 17:15 UT. The weak impact did not trigger a full-fledged geomagnetic storm, but it did illuminate the Arctic Circle with auroras. Frank Olsen photographed the display from a beach in Sortland, Norway; scroll past his picture to learn about the glittering lights in the sand:
There is an interesting link between the auroras and the dinoflagellates. Both use oxygen to create their glow. In the case of the marine organism, a chemical pigment (luciferin) reacts with oxygen to create light. Meanwhile up in the sky, charged particles from the solar wind rain down on the atmosphere, colliding with oxygen molecules to create the telltale green hue of auroras.
More lights are possible tonight. NOAA forecasters estimate a 55% chance of polar geomagnetic storms as Earth passes through the wake of the CME. www.spaceweather.com