Aurora

magnetosphere

An aurora [uh-rawr-uh] is a flickering light caused by the sun’s radiation interacting with an atmosphere, usually found near the poles (Aurora borealis – Dawn of the North, or Aurora australis – Dawn of the South). They come in red, green and occasionally blue, and can sometimes resemble fire, and can be seen for a long way, many hundreds of kilometers or miles. Auroras can occur during the daytime, but are not visible to the naked eye.

The Sun emits a flow of charged particles into space called ‘solar wind.’ The Earth is shielded from these particles by its magnetosphere, a protective electromagnetic bubble created by the planet’s molten iron, outer core. The magnetic field is weakest at the cold areas, so at the poles some particles hit the atmosphere. They discharge their energy on impact, giving off light. An aurora can also happen in a coronal mass ejection, when charged particles are expelled so forcefully they that can penetrate electromagnetic fields.

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