Syfy Insider Exclusive

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, sweepstakes, and more!

Sign Up For Free to View

What Causes an Aurora?


I write a lot about aurorae, the lovely and eerie glowing lights at extreme latitudes caused when subatomic particles from the Sun are channeled down into the atmosphere by Earth’s magnetic field.

Whenever I do I always wind up having to write a brief explanation of how they work; that’s the responsibility of a science writer.

But my burden is now eased a bit thanks to this well-done video giving a solid overview:

What I like about the video is that it covers the basics without giving too much detail or worrying over distracting side issues. And I have all those covered in earlier posts! So, for your brainy pleasure, here is more detail on …

just why the particles cause the air to glow;

why the aurora glows red, green, purple and sometimes even pink

what an aurora looks like from space;

what they look like from the space station;

what they look like when you're directly underneath (called a corona); 

how aurorae move in real time;

how this all depends on the 11-year solar sunspot cycle;

how solar flares are classified;

and how solar storms can cause a lot of havoc on Earth.

In fact, gathering all these links in one place will make my life a lot easier next time I post a gorgeous aurora time-lapse!

My thanks to David Miles, part of the Investigations of Cusp Irregularities sounding rocket program, who sent me some links about the ICI-4 rocket campaign, which led me to the video.

It's a fan thing
Join SYFY Insider to get access to exclusive videos and interviews, breaking news, sweepstakes, and more!
Sign Up for Free
Related Stories
You May Also Like
Recommended by Zergnet