Associate Professor of Physics Aileen O'Donoghue is keeping an eye on the sky this fall, and helping others do the same, via the Internet.

O'Donoghue recently established an e-mail listserv, SkyWatching@listserv.stlawu.edu, to "provide subscribers with alerts of sky events visible from the North Country. These will include astronomical events such as planetary configurations and eclipses, solar events that could result in auroral displays and meteorological events of interest."

According to O'Donoghue, "this year should be particularly good for auroral displays. The sun is very near its 11-year maximum of sunspot activity, so it's likely we'll have more (and better) auroral displays."

The aurora phenomenon is caused, according to O'Donoghue, "by high-energy particles from the sun that are shot off the sun by solar flares and coronal mass ejections, otherwise known as solar storms. It takes these particles about three days to travel to Earth from the sun at speeds around a million miles per hour (the light, moving at 186,000 miles per second, takes eight minutes to get here from the sun). The particles are steered toward our magnetic poles and collide with molecules of nitrogen and oxygen in our atmosphere. The color of the aurora indicates the energy of the particles. The red aurora indicate high-energy particles and are more unusual than the white (low-energy particles) or greenish (moderate-energy particles). Observations of the sun allow prediction of aurora."

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