Wednesday, 5 April 2017

The Northern Lights


Living in a northern region allows us to take in the beauty of the northern lights.  Numerous nights throughout the year provide a wonderful opportunity to take in this dynamic light show.  Streams of colour paint the night sky in a lively show.

Have you ever wondered what causes the northern lights or how they get their colour? Northern lights are a result of charged particles from the sun’s atmosphere colliding with gaseous particles in the earth’s atmosphere.  Yellow/green is the most common colour which is produced by oxygen molecules that are approximately 97 km above the earth’s surface.  Pink/red lights are produced by oxygen molecules that are approximately 322 km above the earth’s surface.  While blue/purple lights are produced by nitrogen molecules.

The sun has such a high temperature.  As a result, it is a common occurrence for collisions between gas molecules which results in freed electrons and protons entering the earth’s atmosphere.  Solar winds carry the charged particles.  As they have a charge, the earth’s magnetic field deflects them but the magnetic field at each of the poles is weaker so some particles enter.  It is these charged particles which collide with gas molecules that result in the magnificent light show known as the aurora borealis. 

There is a website you can visit to try to best determine a night to see the northern lights.  The website is based out of Edmonton which provides updates and alerts for when the northern lights should be out.  This website can be found at the following link: http://www.aurorawatch.ca/.  They are seen best when the sky is dark and there is little to no light pollution from street lights.


The aurora borealis are quite a tremendous thing to behold.  They can last for long or short periods of time.  Be patient and take time to enjoy the show from mother nature.

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