Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis

The Aurora Borealis and the Aurora Australis, sometimes called The Northern and Southern Lights, are natural light displays in the sky, usually observed at night, particularly in the polar regions. Auroras are most visible closer to the Poles due to the longer periods of darkness and the magnetic field.

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Atmospheric Sciences
Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis

What causes the aurora borealis?

Auroras are caused by radiation from the sun, called solar wind, interacting with Earth's magnetic field. When magnetic storms occur on the Sun, electrically charged particles (ions) from the corona and solar flares are added to the solar wind produced by the corona. Solar charged particles from the sun, which are normally radiated into space, sometimes get caught in the Earths magnetic field as they come into the upper atmosphere they react with other gases and produce coloured lights.

The Earth's magnetic field funnels particles from the solar wind over the polar regions (due to the magnetic nature of the Earth). The charged particles are accelerated by the Earth's magnetic field and interact with the gases in the upper atmosphere and cause the gas molecules to emit light. Electrons in the molecules are excited to higher energy levels by the accelerated charged particles and the electrons release photons when they fall back to lower energy levels.

When the ions from the sun first collide with air particles more than 80 kilometres above the ground, each causes a different reaction, and each reaction causes a different color to explode. Collisions of these particles with atmospheric molecules causes energy emission as visible light. Neutral nitrogen particles will create a purplish pink color, while ionic nitrogen transforms into a brilliant blue. If an ion crashes into oxygen in a lower altitude, it becomes the most common aurora, a yellowish-green color. If it however, collides with oxygen at a high level, it will create the rarest blood red aurora. An aurora is sometimes accompanied by a crackling sound. Auroras can occur on other planets.

For more information please see the related links.

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Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis

Are the rainbow and the Aurora borealis similar?

Rainbows and Aurora are completely different phenomena and the colours produced through completely different methods.

Rainbows happen when white light passes through a prism (rain drops act as a prism). The white light is made up of 8 distinct colours. We all probably remember the phrase Richard Of York Gave "Courageous" Battle In Vain to remember the colours. Red Orange Yellow Green Cyan Blue Indigo Violet are the colours we see. The different colours separate because they all have different energy. The less energetic red is bent more than the more energetic violet.

Aurora (Borealis and Australis) on the other hand are produced when charged particles generally from the Sun are channeled by Earths magnetic field into the atmosphere and they excite gases turning them into plasma. The colour seen depends on what gas is being excited. Oxygen produces green or dark red depending on how much energy there is and Nitrogen produces blue or red.

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Why aurora is only seen in cold places?

The question should be: why are they only seen nearer the Polar regions? The temperature is immaterial.

They result from ionising particles radiating from the Sun, interacting with the Earth's magnetic field. Since the latter can be considered to act as a bar magnet with its poles near the rotation poles, the aurora surround only the magnetic poles hence the planet's high latitudes (North and South).

They are occasionally seen further South, very rarely even as far South as Southern English latitudes, although from there only as a glow in the Northern sky.

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Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis

Are there aurora borealis in California?

Only rarely, but it has happened.

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Thunderstorms and Lightning
Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis

Does northern light and lightning are the same?

No, the northern lights are a phenomenon that typically occurs in the thermosphere, the second highest layer of the atmosphere. The northern lights are colorful curtains of light caused by charged particles from the sun being channeled into the upper atmosphere near the north magnetic pole by the planet's magnetic field, these particles then interact with gasses in the thermosphere to produce light in various colors.

Lightning is a phenomenon that occurs in the troposphere, the lowest layer of the atmosphere. Lightning is a massive discharge of static electricity that results from interactions of ice crystals and water droplets in thunderstorms. More rarely lighting can occur in the ash cloud of a volcanic eruption.

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What nickname for Aurora?

northern or southern lights

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Is the Aurora Borealis real?

Yes, the Auroras Borealis and Australis are real colored light displays in the sky, caused by solar storm particles colliding with atoms of oxygen and nitrogen in the upper atmosphere.

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Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis

What forms the northern lights?

Electromagnetic radiation from the Sun interferes with our atmosphere and the collision causes energy to be released in the form of the lights you see.

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Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis

What made the northern lights so famous?

They are so beautiful and fairly rare.

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Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis
Visible Light Spectrum

Are the Northern Lights in the Mesosphere?

No, the Northern Lights, or to give it it's proper name the Aurora Borealis take place in the Ionosphere which is just above the Mesosphere.

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Where in the atmosphere and in the world do Auroras occur?

In the atmosphere Auroras usually occur in the ionosphere(the highest part of the atmosphere, between the thermosphere and the exosphere. The ionosphere gets its name because it is ionized by solar radiation.).

We typically see auroras only in high-latitude areas above about 50 degrees (north or south). However, during intense periods of solar activity, it's occasionally possible to see auroras even from close to the equator.

Aurora Borealis (The Northern Lights) can be seen in the Northern Hemisphere (Siberia, Northern Russia, Northern Europe, Iceland, Greenland, Canada and the US (Alaska)).

Aurora Australis (The Southern Lights) can be seen in the Southern Hemisphere (the southern parts of Australia, New Zealand, South America, South Africa and Antarctica).

When the solar storms are especially severe the auroras can be seen at greater distances from the poles than usual.

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In which layer of the atmosphere do the Auroras occur?

In the upper mesosphere and the lower thermosphere, gas particles become electrically charged. Because these charged particles are called ions, this part of the thermosphere is called the ionosphere. In polar regions these ions radiate energy as shimmering lights called auroras, usually in latitudes above 50 degrees.

The Aurora Borealis and its southern counterpart the Aurora Australis are formed high in the atmosphere in the ionosphere, which is sometimes considered as part of the thermosphere, the outermost actual atmosphere. Above this layer, the exosphere has so few molecules that they can escape into space.

For more information visit the question "What causes the Aurora Borealis?"

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Is aurora borealis bad?

No. In fact the aurora borealis and the aurora australis are very beautiful sights.

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Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis

How do you go to aurora borealis?

The aurora borealis are the "northern lights", which are like a giant natural neon light in the sky. They are caused by geomagnetic storms when a solar flare launches a "coronal mass ejection" toward the Earth.

Auroras are typically seen in more northern latitudes such as Canada or the northern tier of states in the USA, or in northern Europe (Norway, Sweden or Finland). However, during more severe magnetic storms, auroras have been seen as far south as Italy or Florida.

Geomagnetic storms and auroras are difficult to predict, so it's a matter of luck seeing them during a short visit up north.

You can see the aurora gallery at www. [See related Links]

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Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis

What do scientists call the northern lights?

Aurora Borealis

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Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis
Solar Flares

What causes an Aurora?

The aurora is caused by the interaction of high-energy particles (usually electrons) with neutral atoms in earth's upper atmosphere. This process is similar to the discharge in a neon lamp, or the fluorescence of a television screen. The strongest auroras are quite bright, comparable to moonlight. The aurora occurs only above altitudes of 80 km, and infrequently above 500 km. The average altitude for a normal intensity aurora is between 110 and 200 km.
Auroras are caused by solar flares from the sun splashing off the magnetic fields of Earth.
particles from the solar wind that are trapped in the earths magnetic field
An Aurora Australis or an Aurora Borealis occurs when streams of particles from the sun's solar winds hit the earth's atmosphere at an angle (as can only happen at the poles). These particles interact with the edges of the earth's magnetic field and when they collide with the gases in the ionosphere, the particles glow creating curtains of blue, green and magenta. An aurora is sometimes accompanied by a crackling sound.

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Why is the aurora borealis often seen in the northern latitudes of Canada?

idk

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Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis

Can Hawaii see the northern lights?

Sometimes! But it's very, very rare. It has to be linked with a very strong solar storm, the kind that takes out satellites.

However, if the Earth is about to flip magnetic poles, every part of the world will be seeing the "northern" lights until the poles stabilize again.

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What is another name for the Northern Lights?

The Aurora Borealis. They are also called the "Heavenly Dancers".

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When was the Aurora Borealis last seen in UK?

The Aurora Borealis has not been seen in the UK since 2005. However now (2010) we are moving into a time of increased solar storm activity, so there will be more displays of the Northern and Southern Auroras in the next few years. Chances of seeing them in the UK are about 10%.

See the video at the attached link

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What is the Aurora Borealis more commonly known as?

Northern (or Southern) Lights

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How do you recreate an Aurora borealis?

you cant

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Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis

In which city could you view the Aurora Borealis?

Fairbanks, Alaska

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Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis

Why cant you see an aurora borealis in daylight?

The light of the sun swamps the aurora light. Signal (aurora) to noise (sunlight) is too low.

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What are some myths about Northern Lights?

VIKINGS referred to them as reflections from dead maidens.

SCOTS called the Northern Lights "Heavenly Dancers" or "Merry Dancers." "Merry Dancers" were supernatural beings warring in the heavens, and the battle is for the favour of a beautiful woman.

NATIVE AMERICANS perceived the northern lights as gods dancing above the sky. It was also a common belief that the northern lights were a gathering of medicine men and warriors in the land of far North. They held great feasts and prepared their fallen foes in huge cooking pots.

ESKIMOS IN GREENLAND thought it was the realm of the dead, and when the lights changed rapidly, it meant that dead friends were trying to contact their living relatives.

NATIVE AMERICANS believed that they could conjured up ghosts and spirits by whistling to the lights. It was a common belief that the northern lights were the reflections in the sky of huge fires in the distant north, or that the might God Himself lightened up the dark and cold parts of the world.

DENMARK & SWEDEN thought the northern lights were and active volcano in the north, placed there by the Creator to provide light and warmth in those cold, murky regions.

DANISH thought the lights were due to a throng of swans flying so far to the north that they were caught in the ice. Each time they flapped their wings they created reflections which created the northern lights.

ANCIENT TIMES most people were afraid of the lights. Children would be brought inside when the mystifying flames of the auroras spread across the heavens, for the lights could descend and cut their heads off. Thus, in many places northern lights were a threat to people's lives and health. Nordic countries thought the northern lights were a vengeful force which killed those who mocked it. The mythological role of the aurora was important in religion. Many believed it a message from the creator. Flaming auroras reminded people that their creator still cared for them. An old tale from the Nordic countries said that, "God is angry when the aurora flames." It was a common interpretation during medieval times that northern lights were an omen of war, or disasters or plagues.

ROMANS believe "Aurora" was the goddess of the dawn. Many cultural groups thought of them as harbingers of war or famine.

MAORI OF NEW ZEALAND shared a belief with many northern people of Europe and North America that the Southern Lights were reflections from torches or campfires.

MENOMINEE INDIANS OF WISCONSIN believed the lights indicated the location of manabai'wok (giants) who were the spirits of great hunters and fishermen.

INUIT OF ALASKA believed the lights were the spirits of animals they hunted: seals, salmon, deer and beluga whales.

OTHER ABORIGINAL PEOPLE believed that the lights were the spirits of their people.

CHINESE believed that the northern lights were fighting dragons (good/evil).

(If you can ever afford to go and see the Northern Lights it's worth every cent. I lived up North in British Columbia and often watched them for hours. Each night you watched different dancing colors and they are magical.)

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