Clouds, stars, and aurora borealis display in the night sky above, and reflected in the glassy surface of Lake McDonald, Montana. As a night sky watcher, I look forward to some amazing opportunities in 2014 to witness dancing aurora. In the meantime though, and as a celebration of the arrival of this year's winter solstice here are some spectacular photographs capturing the interactions between our sun and the planet we call home.
Northern lights (aurora borealis) above snow covered mountains at a fjord in the Norwegian arctic. The solar wind from the sun carries charged particles that are drawn by Earth's magnetic fields to the poles. In the high northern and southern hemispheres the solar wind particles collide with molecules and gas atoms in Earth's atmosphere. The interaction emits a glowing light that ripples across the sky.
A 15 second time exposure shows the International Space Station passing above the aurora borealis as viewed From Blackduck Minnesota on the night of June 6, 2013. The Station, with its 250- to 260-mile-high orbit, flies well above the aurora that is caused by the interaction of charged particles and the upper atmosphere at an altitude of 80 to 200 miles.
Northern lights above a bridge and snow covered mountains at a fjord in the Norwegian arctic. During the winter solstice on Saturday, daylight hours will be at a minimum for the year -- providing northern night-sky watchers with a longer opportunity to see the vivid colors of any potential aurora displays.
A person stands on a frozen river along the Dempster Highway in the Yukon of Canada watching a show of aurora borealis.
The night of Oct. 10, 2013, and into the very early hours of Oct. 11, north of Wasilla, Alaska, brought an incredible display of the aurora borealis over many parts of the state. Here they are seen over Willow, Alaska, and reflected on a small pond near Nancy Lake.
In this creative double image, aurora are reflected over lake Prestvannet in Tromsø, Norway.
Northern lights with the moon illuminating the skies and icebergs at the Jokulsarlon Glacial lagoon, Iceland.
Nothern lights dance above the Iowa landscape in this photo from June 2013.
Aurora borealis over Hotel ION in Iceland. Hotel ION is close to mountainous lava fields and Thingvellir National Park. The park is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.