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The Aurorae What Causes The Beautiful Light Displays. What Impact Does It Have On Earth?

600 words - 2 pages

The AuroraeThe "Northern Lights" of the aurora borealis are among nature's most beautifulsights. This light is created by high energy particles that stream from the Sunand collide with the Earth's atmosphere. The aurorae is not an occasionaloccurence in nature, they are a permanent feature of the Earth's upperatmosphere. Auroral displays vary in intensity, and sometimes they fade away toalmost nothing. But they are always there.There are aurorae in both hemispheres of the Earth the aurora borealis isaround the North Pole and the aurora australis around the South Pole. Theauroral display stretches high into the atmosphere. In an auroral display,charged particles from the Sun strike the atoms and molecules of the Earth'satmosphere, causing them to glow. This stream of particles is called the solarwind: it radiates continuously from the Sun's corona at over 300 miles persecond.Aurorae appear in many colors because each gas in the atmosphere glows adifferent hue when struck by solar particles. The color also varies accordingto both the electrical state and concentration of the gas. When solar particlesstrike oxygen atoms, the atoms glow either green or red. In the loweratmosphere, there is mostly a green glow because the concentration of oxygenatoms is high. In the upper atmosphere there are fewer oxygen atoms. The rateof collision between oxygen atoms is less, to red auroral display predominate.Particle collisions with nitrogen are responsible for blue and purple displays,depending on whether the nitrogen atoms are charged (ionized) or not.Although aurorae are ever-present, they are also ever-changing. Satellitessuch as the IMP-8 (Interplanetary Monitoring Platform) have monitored the solarwind. From their observations we know that aurorae are at their mostspectacular when the solar wind blows fiercely enough to create magnetic storms-disturbances in Earth's magnetic field. We also know that mirror image auroraeflare simultaneously...

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