NASA Year in Review 2008
NASA's Top Stories of 2008 - What Do You Think?
Lighting up the Night
ISS 10th Anniversary
Ares 1
Arctic Sea ice
Lighting up the Night/Themis
Testing on Rocket Engine
Collier Trophy
Indian Spacecraft

Lighting up the Night

Researchers using a fleet of five NASA satellites discovered in 2008 that explosions of magnetic energy occurring a third of the way to the moon power substorms that cause sudden brightenings and rapid movements of the aurora borealis, or Northern Lights. The cause is magnetic reconnection, a common process that occurs throughout the universe when stressed magnetic field lines suddenly snap to a new shape, like a rubber band that has been stretched too far. These substorms often accompany intense space storms that can cause power outages and disrupt radio communications and global positioning system signals. Scientists are studying the beginning of substorms using a network of 20 ground observatories located throughout Canada and Alaska and five THEMIS, or Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms, satellites.

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