Canadian Space Agency

Canadian Space Agency

February 25, 2009 13:00 ET

Canadian Space Agency/AuroraMAX: New Project Puts the Northern Lights Online

YELLOWKNIFE, NORTHWEST TERRITORIES--(Marketwire - Feb. 25, 2009) - Today, the Canadian Space Agency, the City of Yellowknife, the University of Calgary and Astronomy North announced the creation of AuroraMAX, an online observatory and outreach project that will feature live broadcast of the northern lights from Yellowknife. This collaborative venture aims to increase an understanding of the aurora both locally and nationally.

"Yellowknife has long been the greatest aurora viewing destination in the world, and our community appreciates the opportunity to showcase our spectacular skies using this technology," says Gordon van Tighem, Mayor of Yellowknife. "AuroraMAX is much more than just an online observatory, it's an invitation to come and see Yellowknife auroras for yourself."

"The Canadian Space Agency is proud to be part of this initiative that will promote the Aurora Borealis, one of the North's greatest treasures," says Steve MacLean, President of the Canadian Space Agency. "We have a lot to explore and learn about the Northern sky from our colleagues in Yellowknife who have a wealth of knowledge to share with communities across the country and around the world."

A team led by University of Calgary space physicist Eric Donovan, has developed and is operating the world's foremost network of Auroral cameras and is providing the scientific and technical support for AuroraMAX. The images produced by the AuroraMax project will become an important part of Canada's contribution to NASA's THEMIS mission to study the Aurora, and these images will be used by scientists around the world. "We benefit from being involved in this project," Donovan says. "These images will be a tremendous addition to our science effort."

Project management for the observatory will be led jointly by the Canadian Space Agency and Astronomy North, a society dedicated to observing, exploring and explaining the nature and culture of Canada's northern sky. "The timing of this project couldn't be better," says James Pugsley, President of Astronomy North. "As the Sun approaches Solar Maximum there will be a dramatic increase in the intensity and frequency of the northern lights. It's the greatest light show on Earth and AuroraMAX will give Canadians a front row seat."

Auroras occur as charged particles from the sun collide with gases in Earth's upper atmosphere. Sunspots are a primary source of these particles, which is why the peak of the 11-year sunspot cycle (known as Solar Maximum) is met with high expectations in Yellowknife, a world-renowned Aurora viewing location.

About the Canadian Space Agency

Established in 1989, the CSA coordinates all civil space-related policies and programs on behalf of the Government of Canada. The CSA directs its resources and activities through four key thrusts: earth observation, space science and exploration, satellite communications, and space awareness and learning. By leveraging international cooperation, the CSA generates world-class scientific research and industrial development for the benefit of humanity.

Sample video of images similar to those that will be produced by the Observatory and images of the aurora are available at:

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