Can you explain what the Northern Lights are and how they are produced?
The Northern Lights are one of nature’s most fantastic light shows. They appear as a whitish glow with flickering tints of green and red. They may make wavelike patterns or streak across the sky – a dance of lights.
The Northern Lights (otherwise known as the Aurora Borealis) are only found in the latitudes near the poles. Although they are called the Northern Lights, a similar phenomena (called Aurora Australis), can be seen in the southern hemisphere. If you live near the US-Canada border, northern Asia, or northern Europe you’d be lucky to see the Northern Lights a few times a year. In the Scandinavian countries’ higher latitudes, northern Canada, Alaska, northern Russia, Iceland, and Greenland the Northern Lights can be seen up to once per night.
Here is what happens: Periodically the sun emits particles that hurl themselves toward the earth. These are called solar flares, and the intensity of the flares changes more-or-less monthly. These particles are in a plasma form, meaning that the nuclei of these particles have been ripped away from the electrons, making the now-separated particles charged either positive (protons and nuclei) or negative (electrons). If you recall your high school Chemistry class, then you remember that matter consists of particles that can have a charge.
Most atoms are neutral and are thus uncharged; particles from the sun, however, are often charged. These charged particles experience a magnetic force that causes them to move along a curved, spiraling path towards the Earth’s atmosphere around the polar axis --- where the field is strongest.