Northern Light Fact #6 – The Science Side
How the Northern Lights are created?
Easy question, really scientific answer. Short answer would be that particles from the Sun hit Earth’s magnetic field and collide with oxygen atoms and release energy. That energy is shown as a green light.
Our fact number six is a science fact so today we go deep to the science level. Exact answer to the origins of the Northern Lights goes like this:
“Aurora displays are created when protons and electrons stream out from the solar surface and slam into the Earth’s magnetic field. Since the particles are charged they move in spirals along the magnetic field lines, the protons in one direction and the electrons in the other. Those particles in turn hit the atmosphere. Since they follow the magnetic field lines, most of them enter the atmospheric gases in a ring around the magnetic poles, where the magnetic field lines come together.
The air is made up largely of nitrogen and oxygen atoms, with oxygen becoming a bigger component at the altitudes auroras happen – starting about 60 miles up and going all the way up to 600 miles. When the charged particles hit them, they gain energy. Eventually they relax, giving up the energy and releasing photons of specific wavelengths. Oxygen atoms emit green and sometimes red light, while nitrogen is more orange or red.” You can read more here.
This is the sixth fact in our Northern Light Fact -series.