Aurora Borealis

Topics: Earth, Solar wind, Sun Pages: 2 (515 words) Published: April 7, 2013
Have you ever heard of the aurora borealis, the northern lights, the colorful ribbons and waterfalls across the North Pole’s sky? Well if you haven’t then you will know by the time I’m done. The big question, what causes the aurora? Well the answer is it is caused by a disturbance in the sun that can cause solar wind, a stream of protons moving rapidly from the sun. This causes disturbance with the Earth’s magnetic field, the lines of force surrounding a permanent magnet or moving charged particle, and the solar winds. Electrons and protons are accelerated within the magnetosphere, the magnetic field of a planet. These charged particles are limited to the magnetic field lines much like beads on a wire. The accelerated particles will travel down the magnetic field lines of Earth and collide with the atoms and molecules of the upper atmosphere where the magnetic field lines reach down to surface of the Earth near the north and south magnetic poles. When the particles from the magnetosphere hit with the atoms and molecules of the atmosphere, the particle's energy can be transferred to the atoms and molecules of the atmosphere forming excited states of Oxygen, and Nitrogen. When these finally release their energy and return to their normal ground state, they give up energy in the form of light. This is the light that we see from the ground as an aurora.

The colors you see in the aurora borealis are formed by the collision between the particles from the solar wind and the oxygen and nitrogen inside the atmosphere. Different atoms give off different light spectrums when they are excited. For example, at about 60 miles up oxygen gives of a greenish-yellow color while higher up at around 200 miles up oxygen gives of a reddish color. Nitrogen gives off purple and red and the rippled edges. The process is similar to the lights that illuminate a neon light or computer and TV screens. In a neon light, neon gas is excited by electrical currents. Also, in a picture or...
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