Aurora Borealis

The phenomenon known as aurora borealis is also known by which other term?

And the answer: northern lights.

An aurora is a natural light display that occurs near the polar regions on Earth. If you’re near the North Pole, it's called an aurora borealis, or the northern lights. If you’re near the South Pole, it's called an aurora australis, or the southern lights.

This iconic light display is actually comprised of electrically charged particles from the sun colliding into one another. The gaseous particles of the Earth's atmosphere strike the charged particles from the sun's atmosphere to create colorful, visual displays. The variations in color come from different types of gas reactions: the higher in the atmosphere (about 200 miles high), the more red the colors appear, while the common pale-green displays occur at about 60 miles above the Earth.

Interestingly, in recent years the auroral activity has been discovered to be cyclic, peaking once every 12 or 13 years. Check out this article to see where and when you can see this amazing phenomenon firsthand.

Did you know?

The sun ejects charged particles at the Earth all the time! Fortunately, the Earth's strong magnetic field deflects any unwanted electrical activity. The poles are the only spots on Earth where the magnetic field is (ironically) weaker, and allows the particles into the atmosphere.


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