## Auroral Activities

Aurora Sighting Activity

Introduction: Auroras are very beautiful but to see one you need to know where and when to go. Focus on how to see an aurora. Ask the students to plan a trip to view an aurora. To have the best opportunity to see an Aurora ask: Where would they go? When will they go? How will they know if there will be an aurora? What information could they look at beforehand to make more informed decisions? Ask the students: "When was the last time you saw the Northern Lights?" If you they haven't seen the aurora in a long time or have never seen them then you are probably living on the wrong part of the Earth to see them easily. However, during certain periods of increased aurora activity you can sometimes see auroras in unusual places.

Materials:

• A map of the world
• A black marker to write on the map
• Sheets of paper

Procedure:

1. On a map of the World, write in the number of Aurorae seen at each location on the chart.
2. Add up the number of auroral sightings seen at the different latitudes. For example +30 degrees = 40 sightings.
3. Make a graph that has the number of sightings sorted by their latitude from 0 to +90 degrees (North)
4. Have the students draw conclusions based on this information.

Sightings Data:

 CITY SIGHTINGS CITY SIGHTINGS Madrid 0 Guatemala 0 Cairo 0 Tokyo 0 Rome 1 Mexico City 2 San Diego 3 Paris 4 Denver 10 New York 12 Seattle 15 Boston 15 Moscow 18 London 20 Stockholm 30 Toronto 60 Calgary 70 Oslo 73 Rekyavik 300 Anchorage 400

Make Your Own Aurora

Introduction: In this activity you will have each of your students make their own aurora.

Materials:

• Wintergreen lifesavers
• Mirrors
Procedure:
1. Find a room that can be made totally dark and take a mirror and the lifesavers with you.
2. Sit in the dark to allow your eyes to adjust and then bite down on a Lifesaver while looking in the mirror. The Lifesaver will spark and glitter as you chew!

Conclusion: The process of light created by friction is called "triboluminescence" When you crush certain crystals, large electric fields can be created as the crystal is stressed. Sometimes the electric field is strong enough to rip the outer electrons from their parent atoms. Eventually, the atoms get back together with their lost electrons and give up energy in the form of light. In particular, when nitrogen atoms are ripped apart and recombine, they give off light in the ultraviolet, violet, and blue parts of the spectrum. Believe it or not, this is what you see when you bite on the Lifesaver. The Wintergreen Lifesavers are the best because the wintergreen oil (methyl salicylates) is fluorescent and converts the ultraviolet light into visible blue light. The ripping apart and recombination of nitrogen atoms is what makes the aurora borealis glow, so in a sense, you have a mini-aurora in your mouth.

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©Copyright 1998 Elizabeth Beckett, Holly Bernitt, and Vishwa Chandra.