Mesmerizing Auroras

Have you witnessed the true beauty of nature. Well its time to have a look and get mesmerized at the beauty of Auroras.

purple_aurora_borealis-wide

The aurora borealis (the Northern Lights) and the aurora australis (the Southern Lights) have always fascinated mankind, and people even travel thousands of miles just to see the brilliant light shows in the earth’s atmosphere. The auroras, both surrounding the north magnetic pole and south magnetic pole occur when highly charged electrons from the solar wind interact with elements in the earth’s atmosphere. Solar winds stream away from the sun at speeds of about 1 million miles per hour. When they reach the earth, some 40 hours after leaving the sun, they follow the lines of magnetic force generated by the earth’s core and flow through the magnetosphere, a teardrop-shaped area of highly charged electrical and magnetic fields.

Aurora_Borealis_Poster

As the electrons enter the earth’s upper atmosphere, they will encounter atoms of oxygen and nitrogen at altitudes from 20 to 200 miles above the earth’s surface. The color of the aurora depends on which atom is struck, and the altitude of the meeting.

  • Green – oxygen, up to 150 miles in altitude
  • Red – oxygen, above 150 miles in altitude
  • Blue – nitrogen, up to 60 miles in altitude
  • Purple/violet – nitrogen, above 60 miles in altitude

All of the magnetic and electrical forces react with one another in constantly shifting combinations. These shifts and flows can be seen as the auroras “dance”, moving along with the atmospheric currents that can reach 20,000,000 amperes at 50,000 volts.

Auroras are also seen on other planets. Both Jupiter and Saturn have magnetic fields much stronger than Earth’s (Jupiter’s equatorial field strength is 4.3 gauss, compared to 0.3 gauss for Earth), and both have large radiation belts. Auroras have been observed on both, most clearly with the Hubble Space Telescope. Uranus and Neptune have also been observed to have auroras.

The auroras on the gas giants seem, like Earth’s, to be powered by the solar wind. In addition, however, Jupiter’s moons, especially Io, are powerful sources of auroras on Jupiter. These arise from electric currents along field lines (“field aligned currents”), generated by a dynamo mechanism due to the relative motion between the rotating planet and the moving moon. Io, which has active volcanism and an ionosphere, is a particularly strong source, and its currents also generate radio emissions.

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