I’ve always wanted to travel north just to get a look at the Aurora Borealis. (Or I suppose I could travel south to see its counterpart, the Aurora Australis.) The pictures of this phenomenon are so spectacular that seeing it in person has to be at least ten times better. Unfortunately, in order to catch a glimpse of the Aurora I’d have to travel waaaaay north/south as the zone in which it usually occurs is between 3-6 degrees longitude. That’s polar bear country.
The beauty of the Aurora is caused by atoms in our atmosphere getting excited by solar winds from space. Usually atoms hold their electrons relatively close to the nucleus. But when an outside source gives the atoms more energy, the electrons move further away from the nucleus. This configuration isn’t especially stable, so once the energy source is removed the electrons jump back to their original spot close to the nucleus and in the process release energy in the form of visible light. That is where we get the Aurora from.
The different colors of the Aurora come from atoms of nitrogen and oxygen. Oxygen can emit either a green or brownish-red color while nitrogen gives us blue or red. Green is the most common color of the Aurora, followed by pink. Then comes red, yellow, and straight blue is the most rare color of them all to spot.
No matter what the color though, the Aurora is still a spectacular sight to see!
If you didn’t get enough of these magnificent pictures, we have more back at Newscom.
Also, there are always more interesting posts to read on FocalPoint:
This entry was posted on Monday, December 19th, 2011 at 11:51 am and is filed under Nature and the Environment. You can follow any comments to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a comment, or trackback from your own site.