Ogling Auroras By Maia Nehme

summary

I'M GOING TO EXPLAIN WHAT AURORAS ARE, HOW THEY WORK, HOW THE MAGNETOSPHERE REACTS TO THE SOLAR WIND, HOW IT AFFECTS THE LOCATION OF AURORAS, THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE AURORA BOREALIS AND AUSTRALIS, AND WHAT CAUSES THE DIFFERENT COLORS IN AURORAS AS WELL AS INCLUDE FUN FACTS AND EASY TO UNDERSTAND EXAMPLES.

What are Auroras and what causes them?

A BRIEF EXPLANATION OF WHAT AURORAS ARE AND HOW THEY ARE CREATED

AURORAS ARE VIBRANT CURTAINS OF LIGHT THAT APPEAR IN THE SKY ABOVE THE EARTH'S NORTH AND SOUTH POLES. MANKIND HAS PUZZLED OVER WHAT CAUSES THESE MESMERIZING COLORS FOR THOUSANDS OF YEARS. THE VIKINGS THOUGHT IT WAS LIGHT REFLECTING FROM THE GLITTERING SWORDS OF IMMORTAL WARRIORS, THE ALASKAN INUIT ASSUMED IT WAS THE SOULS OF ANIMALS THAT HAD PASSED AWAY, AND THE MENOMINEE INDIANS GUESSED THAT IT WAS THE ROARING FLAMES FROM GIANTS' TORCHES FAR AWAY. HOWEVER, NONE OF THEM ARE CORRECT. AURORAS ARE ACTUALLY CAUSED BY OUR SUN.

HAVE YOU EVER NOTICED THAT WHEN YOU DRINK A GLASS OF ROOT BEER YOU HAVE THE SUDDEN URGE TO BELCH? THE SUN IS MADE OF GAS, JUST LIKE MANY SOFT DRINKS. THEREFORE, IT SOMETIMES LETS OUT A CONTINUOUS "BURP" THAT THROWS OUT PARTICLES WITH LOTS OF ENERGY. THESE PARTICLES ARE CALLED THE SOLAR WIND. THE EARTH IS USUALLY IN THE WAY OF THESE ZOOMING PARTICLES, SO WE COLLIDE WITH THE SOLAR WIND VERY OFTEN. THIS CAUSES AURORAS. HOWEVER, THEY ARE SLIGHTLY "WEAK" LIGHTS. ERUPTIONS ON THE SUN CALLED SOLAR FLARES MAKE THEM BRIGHTER.

Guisard, Stephane. Aurora Lodge. Digital image. Twanight. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2017. <http://twanight.org/newTWAN/photos.asp?ID=3004474>.

WHAT IS OUR MAGNETOSPHERE AND HOW DOES IT REACT TO SOLAR WIND?

AN EASY TO COMPREHEND EXPLANATION OF OUR MAGNETOSPHERE AND A SIMPLE DESCRIPTION OF HOW IT REACTS TO THE SOLAR WIND

THE SOLAR WIND COULD POTENTIALLY BE VERY HAZARDOUS FOR OUR HEALTH. THANKFULLY, WE ARE PROTECTED FROM IT BY AN INVISIBLE SHIELD CALLED THE MAGNETOSPHERE. THE EARTH HAS A MAGNETIC FIELD, WITH A NORTH AND SOUTH POLE. IT "EXTENDS THOUSANDS OF MILES OUTWARD INTO SPACE", FORMING A "BUBBLE". WE CALL THIS BUBBLE OUR MAGNETOSPHERE, AND IT IS CRITICAL TO THE CREATION OF AURORAS.

WHEN THE PARTICLES IN THE SOLAR WIND HIT THE MAGNETOSPHERE, THEY BECOME STUCK. IMAGINE THROWING SMALL PEBBLES AT A THICK PIECE OF BUBBLE GUM. THE MINUSCULE OBJECTS ARE QUICKLY STUCK. BUT IF YOU TOSS A LARGER ROCK AT THE GUM IT MAY BREAK THROUGH. SOME ESPECIALLY STRONG PARTICLES ARE "ROCKS" THAT BREAK FREE OF THE MAGNETOSPHERE. THESE "ROCKS" REACH OUR PLANET AND BECOME AURORAS.

Reid, Peter. Representation of Earth's Invisible Magnetic Field. Digital image. NASA. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2017. <https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/sunearth/news/gallery/Earths-magneticfieldlines-dipole.html>.

WHAT IS THE AURORA BOREALIS AND THE AURORA AUSTRALIS?

A QUICK CLARIFICATION OF THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE AURORA BOREALIS AND THE AURORA AUSTRALIS

THERE ARE TWO DIFFERENT LOCATIONS WHERE THE AURORAS CAN APPEAR: THE NORTH AND SOUTH POLE. THE "NORTHERN LIGHTS", ALSO KNOWN AS AURORA BOREALIS IS MOSTLY VISIBLE IN THE NORTH BUT CAN SOMETIMES BE FOUND IN THE SOUTH (AS FAR AS FLORIDA). THE AURORA AUSTRALIS, ON THE OTHER HAND, IS CALLED "THE SOUTHERN LIGHTS" AND CAN BE FOUND IN THE SOUTH.

Aurora Borealis Picture. Digital image. Soft Serve News. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2017. <http://www.softservenews.com/photos.html>.

HOW DOES THE MAGNETOSPHERE AFFECT WHERE AURORAS ARE BEST SEEN? WHAT CAUSES THE DIFFERENT COLORS IN AURORAS?

AN EASY TO GRASP STATEMENT ON HOW THE MAGNETOSPHERE AND IONOSPHERE AFFECT WHERE THE AURORA BOREALIS AND AUSTRALIS ARE BEST SEEN AND A BRIEF CLARIFICATION OF THE CAUSE OF DIFFERENT COLORS IN AURORAS

WHEN THE SOLAR WIND COMES IN CONTACT WITH THE MAGNETOSPHERE IT CREATES AN ELECTRIC VOLTAGE BETWEEN IT AND THE POLES. THE VOLTAGE PUSHES ELECTRONS TOWARDS THE MAGNETIC POLES EXTREMELY QUICKLY, UNTIL THEY ENTER THE UPPER LAYER OF THE ATMOSPHERE (THE IONOSPHERE). INSIDE OF THE IONOSPHERE, THE PARTICLES COLLIDE WITH GAS ATOMS. THE GAS ATOMS RECEIVE MORE ENERGY SO THE ELECTRONS HAVE LESS OF IT WHEN THEY COME OUT AGAIN. THAT ENERGY HELPS DRAMATICALLY TO CREATE THE AURORA.

ANOTHER GOOD THING ABOUT THE GASES IS THAT THEY CREATE THE VARIETY OF COLORS SEEN IN AURORAS. WHEN THE PARTICLES COLLIDE WITH OXYGEN, YELLOW AND GREEN ARE PRODUCED. COLLISIONS WITH NITROGEN CREATE RED AND VIOLET HUES (AND SOMETIMES A RARE BLUE COLOR IS DEVELOPED). COLORS ARE ALSO AFFECTED BY ALTITUDE - GREEN LIGHTS USUALLY APPEAR UP TO 150 MILES, BLUE LIGHTS UP TO 60, AND PURPLE AND VIOLET ABOVE 60.

A diagram showing the magnetosphere and solar wind. Digital image. Antarctic Arctic. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2017. <https://antarcticarctic.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/aurora-australis/>.

CITATIONS

  1. "Auroras: What Makes Them Happen?" Auroras: What Makes Them Happen? N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2017. <https://www.exploratorium.edu/learning_studio/auroras/happen.html>.
  2. "ASTRONOMY FOR KIDS." Aurora - Astronomy For Kids - - KidsAstronomy.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2017. <http://www.kidsastronomy.com/Aurora_article.php>.
  3. "Fun Northern Lights Facts for Kids." Easy Science For Kids. N.p., 18 Nov. 2016. Web. 15 Mar. 2017. <http://easyscienceforkids.com/all-about-the-northern-lights/>.
  4. Staff, SPACE.com. "Aurora Borealis: What Causes the Northern Lights & Where to See Them." Space.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2017. <http://www.space.com/15139-northern-lights-auroras-earth-facts-sdcmp.html>.
  5. The Gift of Aurora Alerts. Digital image. Soft Serve News. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2017. <https://www.softservenews.com/members/aurora-alerts-as-a-gift-north-america.html>.

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