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Friday, 30 June 2006

The Northern Lights - Page 2

Written by Dr. Ronald Francis
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The Northern Lights are one of nature’s most fantastic light shows.  They appear as a whitish glow with flickering tints of green and red. They may make wavelike patterns or streak across the sky – a dance of lights.




What do these particles do when they reach the earth?  The answer is at the heart of the Northern Lights phenomena. When the particles strike the atmosphere of the earth, after winding down along the earth’s field lines, they aurora by paul mosssometime run into oxygen atoms, nitrogen atoms or other molecules in the atmosphere.  That causes these atoms to radiate light when their electrons get rearranged; an electron that goes from one level to another level in the atom absorbs or emits light.    Each type of atom has a typical set of light frequencies (color) that it tends to emit.

As one of the grander features of our solar system, the Northern Lights are definitely worth seeing.  To be sure to see them, however, you have to visit Scandinavia (or another country at similar latitude), or you might get very lucky one night at lower latitudes. Don’t get too close to the poles, however, since the Northern Lights occur mainly in a thin oval band that goes around the earth at approximately 67 degrees latitude from the equator.



To check out a slide show of the Northern Lights phenomena


©Dr. Ronald Francis


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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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