How Solar Storms Create the Aurora Borealis

People used to believe spirits or gods created the aurora, but the scientific truth is just as intriguing. This video traces its origins from solar storms that hurtle across our solar system at 8 million kilometers per hour before the Earth's magnetic field funnels them toward the poles. 

As solar storms enter the atmosphere, they excite oxygen and nitrogen atoms, which then emit light when they return to a lower energy state. Green, the color usually created by oxygen atoms, is the most common color of the aurora. 

To see the aurora borealis in action, check out Aurora Islandica, a gorgeous time-lapse video created from over 6,500 still images by Icelandic photographer Ágúst Ingvarsson: 

The Aurora Borealis was created by Per Byhring, for forskning.no in partnership with the University of Oslo Physics Department. Via Brainpickings.

Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg is the executive producer for video at The AtlanticMore

Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg joined The Atlantic in 2011 to launch its video channel and, in 2013, create its in-house video production department. She leads the development and production of original documentaries, interviews, and other video content for The Atlantic. Previously, she worked as a producer at Al Gore’s Current TV and as a content strategist and documentary producer in San Francisco. She studied filmmaking and digital media at Harvard University.

Why Principals Matter

Nadia Lopez didn't think anybody cared about her middle school. Then Humans of New York told her story to the Internet—and everything changed.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A History of Contraception

In the 16th century, men used linen condoms laced shut with ribbons.

Video

'A Music That Has No End'

In Spain, a flamenco guitarist hustles to make a modest living.

Video

What Fifty Shades Left Out

A straightforward guide to BDSM

More in Video

Just In