Awesome Aurora Facts

Have you ever heard of the Aurora? Well it’s an natural marvel that has sent tourists in their millions to see this amazing display! Read on to find out more about the Aurora, and when you’re older make sure you go visit, you’ll be gob-smacked!

At the North and South Magnetic Poles of Earth, we see an amazing sight! The sky lights up, flashes and shimmers. This is called an Aurora. In the northern hemisphere it is called the Aurora borealis, also known as the "Northern Lights". In the southern hemisphere, it is called Aurora australis, also known as the "Southern Lights".

There are particles that are way too small to see with our eyes, called plasma. They stream away from the Sun travelling at a whopping 1,609,344kmph. These particles are called the Solar Wind.

We’ve spoken about plasma, but what is it? It is mainly made up of electrons and some protons. An electron is a tiny piece of electricity that we can’t see. A proton is a tiny particle, that’s smaller than at atom and they are also way too small to see. To understand how small a proton really is; if an atom was the size of a football stadium, then a proton would still be smaller than a marble. Wow, that’s small!

  • The Solar wind we were speaking about takes 40 hours to reach our plant's atmosphere! Wow! But that’s because the Earth is 149,600,00km away from the Sun.
  • The Solar wind bumps into the gases in the Earth's atmosphere and the Earth's magnetic field. From this, it causes the atmosphere to light up, nice and bright, and now we have an aurora.
  • The aurora lights can be different colours and the reason for this is that it depends on what type of gas the plasma mixes with and also the height above the Earth’s surface.

What causes the different colours?

Nitrogen in the air about 95km above the planet's surface reacts with the plasma in the solar wind and turns the sky blue.

The next colour is purple. This gets formed when the Nitrogen in the air is more than about 97km above the planet’s surface and reacts with the plasma. Voila purple!

Yes, there are more colours and this time oxygen is involved. The oxygen in the air is from 97km to 241km above the surface of the planet and reacts with the plasma in the solar wind, and then we get an amazing green.

When there is oxygen more than 241km above the planet's surface, it reacts with the plasma in the solar wind and the sky turns an amazing red. How cool is that?

More interesting Facts about the Aurora

Sometimes the aurora disappears when it’s at heights of between 200km to 300km about the Earth’s surface.

  • If you had to look at the aurora you would see that it looks like moving ribbons of light, which is awesome to see. This is because the particles of plasma are moving due to the Earth's magnetic field.
  • The best place to see the Aurora borealis is in Alaska, USA in the winter when it is in darkness 24 hours a day. Wow! In Europe you can also get a good sighting in Tromso, Norway and the city of Murmansk on the Kola Peninsula of Russia.

The best place to see the Aurora australis is in Antarctica in the winter months, if you’re prepared for one chilly holiday. If the Aurora australis is strong, then it can be seen in Tasmania, Australia and Stewart Island off the southern coast of New Zealand.

The aurora is really, really strong when solar storms flare up on the surface of the Sun, and it spreads further away from the Earth's poles.

This is amazing! In 1989, the Aurora borealis could be seen as far south as Florida, USA and the island of Cuba. It must have been seriously strong.

This is cool. Astronauts on duty in the International Space Station that orbits our planet at a height of 370km above the Earth are actually level with the Aurora borealis. Well maybe you should become an astronaut to see this!

Scientists in Canada have been studying the Aurora borealis for more than 170 years…that is a long time.

Wonder how the awesome Aurora borealis got its name? Well it was named after the scientist Galileo and comes from the Roman word for "Goddess of the Dawn" which is "Aurora" and from the Greek word used to describe a "wind of the north" which is "Boreas". Pretty cool!

There are all our aurora facts. Don’t you think it sounds like one pretty cool thing to see? Well use these facts to wow your friends or to complete a project!




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