How Solar Storms Create the Aurora Borealis

By Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg

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: 

See web-only content:
http://www.theatlantic.com/video/archive/2011/09/how-solar-storms-create-the-aurora-borealis/245208/

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

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/video/archive/2011/09/how-solar-storms-create-the-aurora-borealis/245208/