The Aurora Lights

Lights in the sky have fascinated us for thousands of years. The lights in the far north and south of our planet are some of the more famous ones. What was in that Soup? Travel to Antarctica or the Arctic and you’ll start thinking you are having hallucinations. During the evenings, the sky will literally glow. In the Northern Hemisphere these lights are known as the aurora borealis. They are part of a larger light phenomenon known as aurora. In the Southern Hemisphere, these lights are known as the aurora australis or southern lights. In certain countries such as Russia, the northern lights are known as the white nights. Regardless of the hemisphere, the aurora has a uniform cause. The aurora is the result of streams of electrons reacting to the magnetic field of the Earth. At far northern latitudes, the magnetic field is very close to the surface of the planet. Where the field penetrates the atmosphere, electrons react with gases such as oxygen and produce the effect known as the northern lights. The aurora is undeniably beautiful. The lights appear in a variety of forms, but often combine a glow and curtain like roll. The light literally appears to slowly flow across the sky much like a sheet in the wind. The lights, however, can also appear in a curve similar to a rainbow or long lines. The specific shape is entirely dependent on how the magnetic field is interacting with the atmosphere. On rare occasions, auroras may appear closer to the equator. This rare event is associated with massive solar events. When our sun kicks out a massive solar flare, the resulting solar radiation batters our magnetic field. This battering will actually push the field back into the atmosphere of the planet. When this happens, people around the world are given a chance to see the aurora without traveling the far north or south. The aurora is truly an amazing thing to see. If you are compelled to experience it, Alaska and Norway are considered the best viewing locations.

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