Nature Blows My Mind! The Science Behind Magical Northern Lights

Solar Storms and Magnetic Fields

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auroras photo

credit: GuideGunnar - Arctic Norway

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The auroras, like so many events on our planet, are an interaction between the sun and earth. Solar wind, or gusts of charged solar particles sent off from the sun, interact with the planet's magnetic field and atmosphere.

Marshall Brain of How Stuff Works explains it like this: "Solar winds stream away from the sun at speeds of about one million miles per hour. When they reach the earth some 40 hours after leaving the sun, they followed the lines of magnetic force generated by the earth’s core and flow through the magnetosphere – a tear-dropped shaped area of highly charged electrical and magnetic fields. As the electrons enter the earth’s upper atmosphere, they encounter atoms of oxygen and nitrogen at altitudes from 20-200 miles above the earth’s surface."

Now pay attention here because this is where the colors come into play....

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