Aurora (norther/southern) lights in the sky

An Aurora is a beautiful natural light display in the sky that occurs above the magnetic poles in the northern and southern hemispheres (in the Arctic or Antarctic regions).  In northern areas of the world, the lights are known as aurora borealis (or northern lights).  In southern areas, the lights are known as aurora australis (or southern lights).  The northern lights are often visible in Alaska, Russia, and Canada.  The southern lights are often visible from Antarctica, South America, New Zealand, and Australia.  During a  geomagnetic storm, the lights can spread to other lower latitude areas.

The northern and southern lights are caused by energetic charged particles from the sun colliding with gas particles in the sky.  These charged particles arrive from the sun via solar winds and are directed into the air by the Earth’s magnetic field.  The lights can form as low as 50 miles above the earth to has high as 400 miles from the earth’s surface.

The colors of the northern and southern lights vary and include red, yellow, green, blue, and violet.  Pale green and pale pink are the most common colors displayed.  Pale green northern lights are caused by the sun’s charged particles colliding with oxygen molecules about 60 miles high while rare red auroras are caused by particle collisions with oxygen at heights up to 200 miles above the earth.  Blue auroras are caused by collisions with nitrogen particles in the atmosphere.

Check out amazing pictures of Aurora Borealis or Aurora Australis (northern and southern lights) below.


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