If you’ve even seen the Aurora Borealis live, you know how awe-inspiring it can be. But if you live too far south, or aren’t a night owl, there’s now a way for to you see the aurora, via the web, every night. Last night was the world premier of AuroraMAX – an online observatory which began streaming Canada’s northern lights live over the Internet. “Armchair skywatchers everywhere can now discover the wonder of the northern lights live on their home computer screen,” says Canadian Space Agency President Steve MacLean. “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.”
In addition to nightly broadcasts of the aurora, AuroraMAX will help demystify the science behind the phenomenon, offer tips for seeing and photographing auroras, and highlight Canadian research on the Sun-Earth relationship. The website will also include an image gallery with still photos and movies from previous nights.
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Auroras occur as charged particles from the Sun collide with gases in Earth’s upper atmosphere. The launch of AuroraMAX coincides with the beginning of aurora season in northern Canada, which generally begins in late August or early September and ends in May. Aurora enthusiasts will be able to follow AuroraMAX through solar maximum, the most active period of the Sun’s 11-year cycle, which should produce more frequent and intense auroras on Earth. Solar maximum is currently expected in 2013.
AuroraMAX is a collaborative public engagement initiative between the CSA, the University of Calgary, the City of Yellowknife and Astronomy North.