Gallery: Northern Lights, Canada
The elusive lights of the aurora borealis shimmer across the sky in northern Canada. Though they are most visible at night, the dancing colors are actually caused by the Sun! The Sun radiates more than just heat and light: it also lets off other types of energy and particles. Thanks to the Earth’s protective magnetic field, these other particles are usually deflected by the planet. Occasionally, solar storms called coronal mass ejections occur, and the Sun releases a huge burst of electrified gas. These solar storms travel at incredible speeds, allowing some of their particles to enter the Earth’s atmosphere at the north and south poles. When the solar storm’s particles interact with our atmosphere’s gases, vibrant colors appear in the sky. Green and red hues are created when the particles interact with oxygen, and blue and purple hues are created when the particles interact with nitrogen. Voilà! The Northern Lights.
You can study the science of it all you want, but it still looks like magic!
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