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The Northern Lights



One of the greatest natural wonders of the world are the Northern Lights, which unfortunately for us in Rochester, are usually only visible in the Arctic and Antarctic regions. After having been introduced to them in the magnetism unit, I became interested in finding out more about them. Their official name is Aurora Borealis and there is a ton of physics involved. The lights are created due to the interaction of the Sun's solar wind with the Earth's magnetosphere. From the solar wind comes charged particles, that are directed by the Earth's magnetic field to create different colors. These particles then become very active in the different spheres of the Earth. Oxygen emissions in the atmosphere are most likely to create green or orange lights, while Nitrogen emissions create mainly blue or red lights. The colors are dependent on several factors like, how much energy the atoms absorb, going from an excited state to a ground state, and the addition of electrons after ionization. One day I hope to see them, although I know it'll be a challenge find out when they're happening.


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