<p><strong>During a particularly intense <a href="http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2012/06/solar-storms/ferris-text">solar storm—</a>triggered by titanic eruptions on the sun Friday—a kaleidoscope of <a href="http://science.nationalgeographic.com/science/space/universe/auroras-heavenly-lights/">auroral</a> colors paints the sky over <a href="http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/national-parks/crater-lake-national-park/">Crater Lake</a>, Oregon, early Sunday.</strong></p><p>Auroras are created when charged solar particles slam into Earth's magnetic field and get funneled poleward. The particles collide with molecules in our atmosphere, transferring energy and making the air molecules glow.</p><p>Late last week an <a href="http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/News061412-1504flare.html">active region of giant sunspots</a>—each many times larger than Earth—rotated into view. </p><p>"The active section of the sun right now is really a pretty big region, and anyone who still has whatever they watched the recent <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2012/06/120604-transit-of-venus-2012-sun-planet-hubble-space-science-how-when/">transit of Venus</a> with would easily [spot the active area]—particularly the sunspots," said <a href="http://www.adlerplanetarium.org/researchcollections/researchers#michaelsolontoi">Mike Solontoi</a>, an astronomer at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago.</p><p>(Related <a href="http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/08/photogalleries/100830-sunspot-sun-space-sharpest-view-pictures/">sunspot pictures: "Sharpest View Yet in Visible Light."</a>)</p><p>Space scientists believe the sunspots flung at least two clouds of charged particles—called coronal mass ejections, or CMEs—toward Earth, setting off the intense auroral display. Northern lights were seen rippling down from the Arctic and dancing into Canada and the United States, with sightings as far south as Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Maryland. </p><p>—<em>Andrew Fazekas</em></p>

Crater Colors

During a particularly intense solar storm—triggered by titanic eruptions on the sun Friday—a kaleidoscope of auroral colors paints the sky over Crater Lake, Oregon, early Sunday.

Auroras are created when charged solar particles slam into Earth's magnetic field and get funneled poleward. The particles collide with molecules in our atmosphere, transferring energy and making the air molecules glow.

Late last week an active region of giant sunspots—each many times larger than Earth—rotated into view.

"The active section of the sun right now is really a pretty big region, and anyone who still has whatever they watched the recent transit of Venus with would easily [spot the active area]—particularly the sunspots," said Mike Solontoi, an astronomer at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago.

(Related sunspot pictures: "Sharpest View Yet in Visible Light.")

Space scientists believe the sunspots flung at least two clouds of charged particles—called coronal mass ejections, or CMEs—toward Earth, setting off the intense auroral display. Northern lights were seen rippling down from the Arctic and dancing into Canada and the United States, with sightings as far south as Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Maryland.

Andrew Fazekas

Photograph by Brad Goldpaint

New Aurora Pictures: Huge Solar Blasts Spark Rare Colors

At least two titanic eruptions on the sun created intense auroral displays this weekend, painting skies with rare hues.

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