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The Auroras Essay

1143 words - 5 pages

The colored lights that dance in the sky, changing from shimmering curtains to whirling vortexes dressed in blue, green and red. The shining curtains of light whip back in forth as you stare in awe, witnessing one of wonders of the natural world. These magnificent light shows are known as the Aurora Borealis and Northern Lights in the north and Aurora Australis and Southern Lights in the south. The Aurora Borealis can be seen in areas near magnetic poles located in the North Pole such as Canada, Alaska, Greenland and Siberia. Meanwhile the Aurora Australis can be mainly seen in areas near the South Pole like in Antarctica and can only merely be glimpsed at in Tasmania and New Zealand. The ...view middle of the document...

The Lapps believed they were the energies of souls that had departed and when they appeared people we’re to behave solemnly and a sign of respect. They also believed that whistling while under them would draw the auroras closer and whisk them away. Others in the Mediterranean region believed that the red light in the night was blood flung onto the sky. Beliefs that the auroras were indications of war and sickness also can be read in Greek mythology. The Menominee Tribe even believed that the lights were actually the torches of giants, who had gone out to hunt. There are many stories and myths behind how these lights came to be, each one having their own little sense of charm.
Despite all these creative and intriguing myths conceived, the mystery of the auroras was eventually cracked by the Norwegian scientist, Kristian Olaf Birkeland. Birkeland had organized several expeditions to travel to the aurora areas to collect data on the magnetic fields. There he noticed that an electron beam directed toward a magnetized ball (made to model the earth) was guided toward the magnetic poles and produced the same lights seen in the skies above. He developed a theory that energetic electrons were released from the sun and directed to the Earth, and guided to the earth’s artic regions by the magnetic fields where they produced the auroras. It turned out his theory had been correct. An aurora is “born” 93 million miles away, in the sun’s atmosphere. There, electrically charged particles explode in streams that make their way to earth at speeds of 1.5 million miles per hour. These streams are known as solar wind. As solar wind approaches Earth, it hits the magnetic field which essentially coats the earth in lines of magnetism. The pressure of the incoming solar wind deforms the earth’s magnetic fields which creates a huge comet-shaped region known as the magnetosphere. As solar wind continues to hit the magnetic field, most of the charged particles bounce off it along the field’s lines making their way to the portion of earth that is currently at night. On their way there, they collide with oxygen and nitrogen atoms. These collisions are what cause the beautiful array of colors the auroras are known for. The color of it though depends on which atoms the charged particles...

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