They are one of nature's most spectacular sites: The aurora borealis, or northern lights as they are known, have captivated onlookers for thousands of years.
This past weekend saw a particularly stunning display following a phenomenon known as a coronal mass ejection, where the sun spews a burst of particles into space that reach Earth one to three days later.
Bursts toward earth can cause electromagnetic storms when they react with the Earth's magnetic field, resulting in an explosion of color in the sky.
By Tom Cohen, CNN
The good news is that the chances an asteroid big enough to destroy a continent or all of civilization will hit Earth this year are only one in 20,000, a congressional panel learned Tuesday.
The bad news is the government needs to spend billions of dollars in coming years for new technology to prevent such a possible catastrophe, regardless of the low probability, experts told the House Science, Space and Technology Committee.
"The odds are very small, but the potential consequences of such an event are so large, it makes sense to take the risk seriously," contended John Holdren, who directs President Barack Obama's Office of Science and Technology Policy.