How Solar Storms Create the Aurora Borealis

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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.

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

Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg's work in media spans documentary television, advertising, and print. As a producer in the Viewer Created Content division of Al Gore's Current TV, she acquired and produced short documentaries by independent filmmakers around the world. Post-Current, she worked as a producer and strategist at Urgent Content, developing consumer-created and branded nonfiction campaigns for clients including Cisco, Ford, and GOOD Magazine. She studied filmmaking and digital media at Harvard University, where she was co-creator and editor in chief of H BOMB Magazine.

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