Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Aurora Season Is Coming!

For reasons scientists still do not fully understand, spring and fall are the best time for viewing auroras. However, despite still being only mid summer, aurora season kicked off dramatically last night with a stunning, far South reaching display of the Northern Lights.

For anyone living at mid Northern latitudes, keep an eye on the sky tonight, too.

The lights are caused by high-energy particles from the Sun coming into contact with Earth's upper atmosphere. The energy released by the colliding atoms/molecules releases photons of light, which we see as aurora. Why are aurora so many different colors? Simple, each different element gives off a different color when it reacts with the solar particles.

Oxygen: red aurora at high altitudes, yellow to green at mid
Nitrogen: red, often seen at bases of auroral curtains
Hydrogen: blue/purple
Helium: blue/purple

For an added bit of fun, if you are lucky enough to see aurora, why not try and photograph them? Who knows, you may make the front page of Spaceweather like I did with my Young Moon shot.

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