What is an Aurora and What Makes it Happen?

An aurora or northern lights is a display of colorful natural lights that shimmer in the sky. These lights typically feature a yellow, green or red colors etc. Furthermore, the lights gently shift and even change shape like soft blowing curtains. Only visible at night, aurora are known to appear usually in polar regions. Since they have become a common occurrence over the years, let us take a deeper look into what makes it happen.

Auroras and the Solar Wind

Auroras are mostly visible to those who live at or visit high latitudes. As mentioned previously, these lights shimmer in the sky. Therefore, they are hard to ignore. Some people believe that the spirits of their ancestors can be seen dancing in the flickering aurora. In Norse mythology, the aurora is assumed to be a fire bridge to the sky built by the gods. The fact of the matter is that its creation has a lot to deal with the sun. 

Despite the fact that it is 93 million miles away from us but its effects extend far beyond its actual location. The sun usually experiences great storms that send charged particles hurtling across space. If by any chance the earth comes in the path of these charged particles, the magnetic field and atmosphere of our planet react. When the charged particles produced by the sun hit the atoms and molecules in Earth’s atmosphere, the atoms become excited, causing them to light up. 

If you wish to understand what happens in an aurora, take the example of neon lights we use for business signs. Neon lights include neon gas and atoms that are excited using electricity within glass tubes. It is the exact same principle the aurora is based on but on a very vast scale. 

Types of Aurora

Auroras may appear as curtains of lights or arcs or spirals. Even though most of them feature green color but some can also have hints of pink, violet, and red, etc. For a while, the colors in the aurora were also a mystery. However, scientists state that the reason behind different colors is different gases in the earth’s atmosphere that when excited, give off different colors. For instance, oxygen gives off green color while Nitrogen causes blue or red colors.

Final Word

Today, the mystery of auroras is not so mysterious after all. Several studies have been conducted on the same subject and found the gasses to be the main reason. Moreover, people travel thousands of miles just to see this brilliant show of shimmering lights in the sky and share that it is something they have never seen or experienced before.