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Aurora Borealis

By: Dominique
What are the northern lights?
A phenomenon occurring near the polar
regions that appears as wisps and
luminous arches of light
Where can you see them?
Earths magnetism draws solar wind
towards the poles which is why the aurora
occurs much more frequently near polar
regions
Scandinavia, Canada, northern North
America, southern South America,
Northern Europe, Siberia
Altitude
Most aurora borealis displays occur
between 90 and 130 km
The lower edge is generally around 95 to
110km, about 10 times higher than a jet
flies
Sometimes high-altitude aurora can be
seen at the level where space shuttles fly
Unique Sightings
The northern lights have been seen south
of 35 degrees North in the United States
November 5th and 6th 2003, aurora
borealis displays were seen in Texas,
Arizona, and San Diego
Unique southern sightings
are the product of huge
geomagnetic storms

What is the cause of the aurora
borealis?
The aurora borealis is caused by solar
wind (the suns stream of plasma)
Solar wind travels from the sun and enters
Earths atmosphere and becomes agitated
Some of the excited ions interact with the
ionosphere and start glowing
The excited ions absorb extra energy
when colliding with Earths atmosphere,
causing them to send out light photons
Why and how does colored light
occur?
The colors we see as the aurora borealis are really the energy
of photons
It takes a green photon about of a second to return to ground
state and emit the color, while a red photon takes about 2
minutes to return to ground state and show its color.
If atoms collide with another air particle before reaching ground
state they could transfer their energy to the other particle and
never emit the light photon.
Differences in time that it takes to return to ground state
determines where the color will show up.
In denser air (lower down) the red photon doesnt have a
chance, collisions are frequent and 2 minutes leaves a lot of time
for a collision to occur.
Colored Light Cont.
Green emissions do have a chance of occurring lower down
because they return to ground state quickly.
Below about 100km (60 miles) altitude even the green
emission doesnt have a chance, collisions are simply too
frequent in the dense air.
The green emission is squished by collisions at that altitude
all that is left is a blue-red mixture of molecular nitrogen and
thats why a purple color is the lower border.

Colors
Red is the dominant color
Commonly seen colors are: red, green,
violet, and blue
The color depends on the gas that the
plasma ions interact with
Atomic nitrogen causes red and blue
Atomic oxygen causes a dark red and
green combination
Molecular nitrogen results in purple

What exactly does aurora borealis
mean?
aurora borealis is Latin:
-aurora means red dawn
-borealis means northern
Galileo Galilei named the northern lights
Aurora was the Roman goddess of dawn
and Boreas was the Greek name for the
North Wind
Effects on Communication
Depending on the size of the solar flare,
communications can be disrupted
Radio, television, and satellite
communications and some Ham radio
frequencies can be disturbed
Effects on the Atmosphere
The aurora borealis only affects the atmosphere
at or above it
Our weather is not affected at all because the
aurora doesnt interact with the troposphere
At 100-200km altitude the energetic ions cause
heating and
create currents
The currents cause
horizontal wind and
temperature changes


Photographed from the ISS
Classification of Solar Events
Different sized flares create different sized
auroras
C-class event- small solar flare with no
effect on communication
M-class event- medium sized solar flare
that can disrupt communication
X-class event- large or extreme solar flare
that disrupts communication
The End
Sources
Works Cited
Aurora Borealis. Aurora Borealis. N.p., n.d. Web. 1 June 2010.
<http://www.aurora-borealis.us/>.
Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights). National Weather Service Forecast
Office. N.p., 6 Jan. 2006. Web. 1 June 2010.
<http://www.crh.noaa.gov/ fsd/ astro/ aurora.php>.
Facts. Northern Lights And Winter Nights. Frontiers North Adventures
Incorporated, n.d. Web. 1 June 2010.
<http://www.northernlightswinternights.com/ facts/>.
Facts And Info About Aurora Borealis. Facts About. N.p., n.d. Web. 1
June 2010. <http://www.facts-about.org.uk/ science-aurora-
borealis.htm>.
Lummerzhein, Dirk. Frequently Asked Questions About the Aurora and
Answers. Geophysical Instistute . N.p., 12 May 2009. Web. 1 June
2010. <http://odin.gi.alaska.edu/ FAQ/>.

The images are from: Google Image Search