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Posted 12/28/2022 in Travel and Leisure Articles by

What Causes An Aurora, The Northern Or Southern Lights?

What Causes An Aurora, The Northern Or Southern Lights?

An aurora is an incredibly beautiful natural phenomenon seen by the human eye. Auroras occur in the night sky and create a spectacular display of light that can be seen across the globe, usually in high latitudes.

Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) & Southern Lights (Aurora Australis)

The northern and southern lights are not mirror images of each other but are created by a similar process.

The northern lights, also called the Aurora Borealis, are a spectacular light show that can be seen over large areas of the northern hemisphere. Northern lights occur when highly-charged particles from the Sun enter Earth's atmosphere near the North Pole. They collide with gas molecules in the atmosphere and produce an energy display of green, red, and white colors. The type of gas determines what color is seen.

The southern lights, on the other hand, are also called Aurora Australis (or sometimes just "Australis"). Southern lights occur in a similar way, but they are visible when highly charged particles from the Sun's solar wind and the magnetic field of the Earth interact near the South Pole.

What Causes An Aurora, In General? 

The aurora is an effect of solar activity and is caused by interactions in the solar wind with the Earth's magnetic field, creating a glow of light. The Sun ejects constant, massive streams of plasma and charged particles into space, called the solar wind or solar storms, which travel at the speed of over 7,500 miles per second.

These charged particles come into contact with the magnetosphere, a region around Earth that is filled with magnetic fields. This region contains lots of hydrogen, helium ions, oxygen molecules, and nitrogen due to the ozone layer. When the magnetic fields in the magnetosphere interact with the stream emitted in our atmosphere, they cause particles of gas to release photons, which we perceive as light.

The ionosphere contains charged particles that are typically present in this region of space. But they become excited by the electrical currents flowing through them and emit a variety of distinctive colors.

The Color Variations

During geomagnetic storms, particles from the solar wind collide with Earth's magnetic field and enter our atmosphere near the poles. When these cosmic rays collide with atoms in our atmosphere, they produce what is known as a "shower" of subatomic particles. These particles then collide with other atoms creating more showers and so on, until they reach your eyes. The more charged particles and the faster those particles move, the more color variations there'll be in the aurora display.

Best Time To See The Northern Lights And Southern Lights

If you are planning a trip to see the northern or southern lights, it's helpful to know when they are most likely to be visible before booking your northern lights tour package.

The northern and southern lights are most prominent during the months of September and March, when there is less daylight and more darkness. Auroras are best seen between 10 pm and 2 am local time when it is dark out during equinoxes, and they're at their brightest.

Seeing the northern or southern lights can be a rewarding experience for anyone who loves viewing natural wonders. If you're thinking of trekking in search of the grand adventure, it's best to book a guided northern lights tour to increase your chances of witnessing this magic. Call 867-873-4600 to get an exclusive deal on northern lights tour packages.

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