Are you bored yet? I hardly think so...let's keep learning about why we see these magical lights.
The aurora is caused by the interaction of highenergy particles (usually electrons) with neutral atoms in the Earth’s upper atmosphere. These high energy particles can “excite” (by collisions) valence electrons that are bound to the neutral atom. The excited electrons can then return to their initial, lower energy state, and in the process release photons (light particles). This process is similar to the discharge in a neon lamp.
Any particular color of the aurora depends on a specific atmospheric gas and its electrical state, and on the energy of the particle that hits the atmospheric gas. Atomic oxygen is responsible for the two main colors of green (wavelength of 557.7 nm) and red (630.0 nm).
Image Credit & Copyright: Mia Stålnacke
It appeared, momentarily, like a 50-km tall banded flag. In mid-March, an energetic Coronal Mass Ejection directed toward a clear magnetic channel to Earth led to one of the more intense geomagnetic storms of recent years. A visual result was wide spread auroras being seen over many countries near Earth's magnetic poles. Captured over Kiruna, Sweden, the image features an unusually straight auroral curtain with the green color emitted low in the Earth's atmosphere, and red many kilometers higher up. It is unclear where the rare purple aurora originates, but it might involve an unusual blue aurora at an even lower altitude than the green, seen superposed with a much higher red. As the Sun continues near its top level of surface activity, colorful nights of auroras over Earth are likely to continue.
Another edition of our weekly space hangout. This week we talked about a week of space remembrance, solar storms, Newt's plans for a 2020 lunar base, arsenic and old news, black holes and their galaxies and the death of Phobos-Grunt.
We were joined by , , , and .
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