The northern lights put on a festive show over northern Canada just before Christmas, and a NASA satellite captured a stunning infrared image of the spectacular display. The night after the winter solstice, NASA's Suomi NPP spacecraft recorded the northern lights, or aurora borealis, across British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nunavut, and Northwest Territories in Canada on the night of Dec. 22. From 512 miles above the Earth, the satellite's Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite captured the northern lights display, which appeared as glowing swirls of clouds over northern Canada, NASA's Earth Observatory said in a statement. The northern lights occur when particles from the sun known as the solar wind interact with Earth's magnetic field, according to NASA scientists. Because the particles are charged, they can cause electrical current changes in the field that then send energetic particles into the upper atmosphere's gases.
Canada turns 150 years on July 1 and the world's second-biggest country is planning a full year of birthday bashes. But first, a flash history lesson: North America's first successful colony, New France, was established in 1605 in what is now Nova Scotia -- yes, the French were here first -- but what Canada is tooting its horn about throughout 2017 is Canadian Confederation. That's when the Province of Canada (Ontario and Quebec), Nova Scotia and New Brunswick joined together as the Dominion of Canada on July 1, 1867. It continued to add territories and provinces until Newfoundland signed on in 1949 to create what is today's Canada. Although the epicenter of the sesquicentennial -- "sesquie" for short -- celebration is in the national capital of Ottawa and most activities are local and community-based, there are many fun, educational, creative and crazy events taking place from coast to coast to coast (Pacific to Atlantic to Arctic). Here are a few to get you started, in no particular order.
The annual Canadian UFO Survey by Winnipeg-based Ufology Research shows "the second highest level of sightings that we've recorded since we started doing the survey back in the 1980s," with 1,267 across Canada in 2015, rep Chris Rutkowski tells the CBC. Only 2012 had more, with 1,981 sightings. The provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland each saw an increase in reports over 2014, but Quebec outpaced them all, according to data from 17 sources, including Transport Canada and YouTube. The province, which typically produces 5% to 15% of all UFO reports in Canada, generated 35% of reports in 2015, reports the Canadian Press. Montreal led Canadian cities with 97 reports, followed by 78 in Toronto, and 69 in Vancouver.
Another major storm system is bringing heavy snowfall to the central Plains and Upper Midwest of the United States. Canada, too, is seeing large falls of snow across Ontario and southern Quebec. Blizzard conditions have been experienced in some parts of the Midwest, and the storm is expected to sweep eastwards into New England, Labrador and Newfoundland in the coming days. Residents of New England must be weary of spring snow by now. This will be the fourth major storm to deposit snow on the region since the beginning of March.
The pursuit of the Stanley Cup begins without a Canada-based team for the first time since 1970. Canada went 0 for 7 this season, with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Winnipeg Jets, Calgary Flames, Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks missing the playoffs. The Detroit Red Wings will make their 25th consecutive appearance, the longest such streak in North American major professional sports. The Kings, Dallas Stars, Philadelphia Flyers and San Jose Sharks return after missing out last season and the Florida Panthers return after failing to qualify in three consecutive seasons and 13 of 14. The Chicago Blackhawks again will try to become the first team to win consecutive championships since the Red Wings in 1997 and 1998.