Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I realize the majority of my posts have focused more on activities you can go out and experience, but the other half of this blog is designated for traveling. If you have read my profile, you know that in a little more than six months I will be leaving for my bicycle tour around the world. Seeing as much of the natural beauty of the world is one of my highest aspirations. For as long as I can remember, I have been entranced by one phenomenon of nature in particular. Of course, I speak of what I know as the Northern Lights.

Though there have been many theories in the past, these happenings are caused by an interaction between Earth’s magnetic field (magnetosphere) and solar wind. Occasionally there is a collision of charged particles between those from the magnetosphere with plasma particles accelerating from the Sun. These superheated particles are also magnetic and reach the Earth’s atmosphere at speeds of 350-400 Km/s. The solar winds compress the sunward facing side of our planet which compresses its magnetic field ultimately powering the aurora.

Sun emitting plasma particles into the Earth's magnetosphere.

These actions tend to excite the electrons into taking quantum leaps, where the electron’s kinetic energy is converted into visible light. Most auroras are green or red from the presence of oxygen, while nitrogen molecules produce some light red/pink and blue/violet demonstrations. The level of solar wind activity from the Sun can influence the color and intensity of auroras.

Auroras are a common occurrence in the north and south poles while occasionally being seen in temperate latitudes due to the presence of a strong magnetic storm. These storms normally coincide with the peak of the eleven-year sunspot cycle.

Other planets within our solar systems, such as Jupiter and Saturn, exhibit aurora activity as well.

Jupiter Aurora

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