Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Northern Lights Explained

What causes the Northern Lights? Think of it this way...

Somebody throws handfulls of confetti in front of a huge fan. Soon it looks like a snowstorm in the room as the air is filled with tiny bits of paper.

Another person stands on the other side of the room with a big vacuum cleaner, holding the nozzle up into the air. A third person holds an electrified metal heating grid over the opening of the vacuum nozzle.

The vacuum starts to pull confetti out of the air, but before the bits of paper can enter the nozzle, they hit the grid - bursting into flame.

The Sun's magnetic field (the fan) throws charged particles from its atmosphere (the confetti) out into space (the room). As these particles near the Earth they are pulled in by its magnetic field (the vacuum), which pulls them down to the magnetic poles (the nozzle). Before they can reach the Earth, the charged particles hit the Earth's atmosphere (the grid) and collide with the gases found there. The reaction between those particles and the gases creates energy, and the energy is given off as light - the Northern Lights.

Trivia Question: Everyone talks about the northern lights...is there a southern lights and if so what is the official name?? Answer soon!

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