||Solar & Aurora Image Gallery|
The Sun is our nearest star, and the only one we can study closely. It is a remarkable coincidence that the angular diameter of the Moon in the sky is exactly that of the Sun. Because of this, when the positions of the Earth and Moon are just right, the Moon can perfectly block the disk of the Sun, allowing us to see the otherwise invisible solar corona. This is an sight of unbelievable beauty; once seen it is never forgotten. I have been fortunate to observe three total solar eclipses. I hope to see many more.
During times of high activity, the Sun throws off great masses of charged particles. If these streams of particles hit the Earth, they are funneled by its magnetic field toward the poles, where they interact with gasses in the atmosphere to produce auroras, the Northern and Southern Lights. Auroras are fairly common at high latitudes, but quite rare as far south as Colorado. Nevertheless, the high solar activity of 2001 brought us two auroras that year.
Surprisingly, two years after the strong solar maximum of 2001, the Sun once again erupted into fierce activity, again producing low-latitude auroras. In the summer of 2004, strong sunspot activity again occurred, producing auroras that extended quite far, although not quite reaching Colorado. In November, however, a large eruption from the Sun produced auroras extending well south of Colorado.