This view was shot by the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory on December 13th after the X-class flare exploded. Click on image for a 1.8 MB QuickTime movie.


If you've been waiting for that special moment to do a little naked-eye astronomy — this is it. Tonight may feature two of the night sky's most spectacular performances: a strong meteor shower and a beautiful display of the northern lights.

The former is due to the Geminid meteor shower. Although the shower's peak was last night, tonight will provide a wealth of slow-moving shooting stars.

This year's shower happened to coincide with a major explosion on the Sun's surface. The event came from the same active region that we've been highlighting over the past week. The blast, categorized as X-class, is in the same league as the most violent solar flares ever observed. And it was pointed straight at Earth when it went off. An aurora alert is in effect for those located was far south as Oregon, New York, and southern Europe.

Showtime! This is a view of the aurora as seen from southern New Hampshire on December 14th.

Sean Walker

There's no need to own a telescope — or even binoculars. Just bundle up, grab a cup of cocoa and a lawn chair, and enjoy the show!


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