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.

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

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

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Video

Just In