HomeScience & TechNASA Explains Phenomenon Behind Spectacular Auroras Illuminating Earth's Skies

NASA Explains Phenomenon Behind Spectacular Auroras Illuminating Earth’s Skies

Auroras, the mesmerizing celestial light shows, have once again graced the skies across several regions, captivating spectators with their vibrant hues of pink, green, and purple. This dazzling display, commonly known as the “northern lights,” is a result of a powerful solar storm that has swept across the planet.

The phenomenon, triggered by eruptions on the Sun, has been elucidated by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in a recent thread on X (formerly Twitter), shedding light on the intricate interplay between solar activity and Earth’s atmosphere.

According to NASA, solar eruptions manifest in two primary forms: solar flares and coronal mass ejections (CMEs). Solar flares, intense bursts of light, occur when the Sun’s magnetic fields undergo abrupt rearrangements. In contrast, CMEs entail the release of giant clouds of solar particles intertwined with magnetic fields, which can traverse vast distances across the solar system, including Earth.

While solar flares swiftly reach Earth, with light taking a mere 8 minutes to traverse the distance, CMEs may take several days to arrive. Nevertheless, upon their arrival, CMEs can ignite the auroras, setting the night sky ablaze with luminous displays.

As CMEs collide with Earth’s magnetic field, they deposit solar particles into the near-Earth space, where they follow the planet’s magnetic field lines into the atmosphere. This influx of particles triggers a spectacular reaction, causing gases in Earth’s atmosphere to glow, resulting in the mesmerizing auroral oval encircling the poles.

The colors of the auroras are determined by the type of gases present in the atmosphere and their respective altitudes. Oxygen emits hues of red or blue, while nitrogen contributes shades of green, blue, or pink to the ethereal spectacle.

Recent powerful solar eruptions have broadened the auroral oval, extending the reach of auroras to lower latitudes. Reports of northern lights as far south as the Bahamas serve as a testament to the magnitude of these celestial events, captivating sky-gazers worldwide with their awe-inspiring beauty.

From Bear Lake, Utah, to the Bahamas, last night’s celestial display serves as a poignant reminder of the profound connection between solar activity and Earth’s mesmerizing auroras, painting the night sky with nature’s spectacular palette of colors.

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