Capturing The Northern Lights Forever
November 5, 2014
Little compares to the majesty and splendor of the aurora borealis; or as it is better known- the northern lights. Brilliant colors of the red, green, blue and predominantly yellow dance across a midnight blue arctic sky. As they dance across their night sky stage, they tango with a back drop of stars that seem to be just ever so slightly out of reach, making it the perfect scene for photography. But what is the science behind these celestial light show? What actually causes the northern lights phenomenon?
Causes Of The Northern Lights
First let’s learn what causes the light portion of the northern lights. Our sun is continually spewing positive ions (positively charged parts of atoms) into space due to the nuclear processes that keep it burning. This flow of ions, which occurs in all directions, is called Solar Wind.
When the particles that make up this wind reach the Earth’s atmosphere, they knock the electrons out of atoms. When other atoms catch the electron, light is emitted. There you have the cause of the “light” in Northern Lights.
Northern Lights Colors
Second let’s learn what causes the Northern Lights to have all these colors. The color of light depends on the type of gas, or atoms, involved. Each type of gas emits a characteristic color when it captures an electron.
The varieties of gases in the atmosphere are what cause the varied colors in the northern lights. Hydrogen, helium, nitrogen and oxygen collide with the solar charged particles and result in the yellow, blue, purple, red, and green colors emitted by the lights.
The Northern Part
Third let’s learn what causes the “northern” part of Northern Lights. They are called Northern Lights because the poles of the Earth’s magnetic field are near the north and south poles. Light seen around the North Pole is known as Northern Lights or Aurora Borealis.
Light seen around the South Pole are called the Southern Lights or the Corona Borealis.
Sometimes, the flow of ions from the sun gets stronger, and the Northern Lights can reach closer to the equator then they might otherwise. There have been reports of people seeing the Northern Lights close to the equator in places such as Texas, USA.
The Dancing Of Lights
Lastly, let’s learn what causes the northern lights to dance. As with any wind, solar or otherwise, the particles move in a sweeping motion over the Earth’s surface. This results in a dancing like pattern of light.
So there you are. You now know exactly what causes the northern lights, and why a traveling to see them is a once in a lifetime experience.