Image of IMAGE in space

Bright Auroral Spots Identified as Magnetic Reconnection Events


On 18 March 2002, a jet of energetic solar protons collided with the Earth's atmosphere and created a bright 'spot' seen by NASA's IMAGE spacecraft. Simultaneous observations by the Cluster spacecraft has now shown that the region was experiencing a turbulent event known as 'magnetic reconnection'. Proton aurorae were globally imaged for the first time by NASA's IMAGE spacecraft. The images revealed the presence of the 'dayside proton auroral spots'. By a fortunate coincidence, IMAGE and Cluster both spotted the event on 18 March 2002. Combining with IMAGE's observations, Cluster made it possible to establish the ground truth of the phenomenon.

(2002: H.U. Frey, S.B. Mende, T.J. Immel, S.A. Fuselier, E.S. Claflin, J.-C. Gerard, B. Hubert)

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Additional Information

Aurora - The lights often seen in the northern skies at night, which take the form of green, red or bluish clouds or curtains of light. Northern people have watched these in wonder for centuries. They are produced by currents of charged particles from distant regions of the magnetic field.

Magnetic Storm - A disturbance in Earth's magnetic field that can last from a few minutes to several days. Severe storms can cause compass needles to give the wrong navigation bearings. They signal the presence of powerful currents of charged particles flowing near Earth in space.

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Rev. 1.0.0, 24 April 2003, EVB II