What are the Northern Lights
(a.k.a. aroaras)? They are beautiful colors in the sky! To many
people nothing is more amazing than the northern lights. The
lights are just electrical and magnetic forces that produce
movements that are very unique in nature. These glorious
happenings can only be seen on rare occasions., although they can
be seen almost anywhere on earth. Most of them take place in the
polar regions, however; forming a belt around the magnetic pole
which is about 2,500 kilometers from it.
How do the Northern Lights
form? There are a few things you have to know first. One of the
things is about our atmosphere. Our atmosphere is full of
different gases and there are several layers above our atmosphere
that are full of different gases, too. The outer most layer is
called the ionosphere, and is a very important part in forming of
the Northern Lights. The other thing you need to know is about a
giant magnetic field. Earth's core is made up of metals which act
like a large magnet stuck in the Earth, called the magnetosphere.
Well, the auroral lights' fuel comes from the particles and energy
of the solar wind, which is constantly changing. It takes 3 to 6
days for particles from the sun to reach earth. The number of of
particles and the intensity of the solar wind depends on how
active the sun is. Energetic events on the sun can turn the solar
"gale" which inject large numbers of energetic particles in
Earth's magnetosphere. The charged particles travel along the
field lines with so much energy that they penetrate the ionosphere
where they hit gas atoms and molecules. These collisions give off
energy that we see as colored light.
The northern lights look
like paintings in the sky. You will never find two arouras that
look exactly the same. If you were outside on a dark clear night
you would see slowly rising from the horizon a faint glow. Light
layers pillow on top of each other growing higher and higher.
Blending together, the layers look like they are dripping into
each other as waves slowly move across the sky.
What makes them different
colors is easy. It's the different gases in the atmosphere that
makes the difference. When the atom's gases bump into each other,
they give off a light. You could consider the light as a finger
print, because no two gases give off the same light. Dark yellow
is the color of an aroura in the atmosphere full of sodium gas.
Dark orange is the color of an aroura in an atmosphere full of
pure neon gas. Different neon colors are neon gases mixed with
other gases. Some gases might give off several colors of light,
but that set of colors is found only in that one certain