FSPilot747 From United States of America, joined Oct 1999, 3599 posts, RR: 13 Reply 1, posted (7 years 7 months 2 weeks 6 days 8 hours ago) and read 915 times:
Basically (in a very small nutshell),the sun releases what is called a charged "solar wind." These charged particles interact with our magnetosphere, basically a magnetic field that surrounds our planet. It, in effect, protects us from the harmful solar wind particles. The interaction between the solar wind particles and our magnetosphere during peak periods (sunspot cycle), causes excited electrons to emit the colors we see at different levels.
That's what I remember from a couple of science classes, hopefully it is mostly accurate. You might want to try Wikipedia.com or google for a more thorough explanation. But, basically it has to do with the sun's solar wind interacting with our magnetosphere.
Cptkrell From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 2918 posts, RR: 13 Reply 4, posted (7 years 7 months 2 weeks 6 days 5 hours ago) and read 886 times:
FSpilot and AsstChief offered good replies. FYI, only day before yesterday, the Science Channel (IIRC; check your listings) had a presentation "Mystery of the Northern Lights" that explored the phenomenom, and indeed, left some unanswered questions.
These presentations are usually repeated often, so keep checking with your local listings for an encore. Regards...jack
DLKAPA From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR: Reply 5, posted (7 years 7 months 2 weeks 6 days 5 hours ago) and read 881 times:
Pretty simple actually. To start off, we have the Van-Allen belts, also known as the earth's magnetic field lines. Basic tendency of magnetism is that a charged particle inside a magnetic field will move laterally through the field with the force acting purpendicular to both the direction of the field and the direction of the charge's velocity. What ends up happening is that a charged particle makes a spiral around the Van-Allen belt as it moves along the length of the field line. At the poles where the field lines come together, the particles become more concentrated (sort of like what happens in a traffic circle- cars come together from all directions).
Now where the sun comes in: The sun throws out massive amounts of both matter and energy, in more than just the form of light and gas. When the magnetic energy from a large solar flare passes through the charged atoms, it causes them to go up to a higher energy level, and thus visable light is emitted in the form of Aurora Borealis. Not only is visable light emitted from the charged atoms, but because they're going to a higher energy level, they have to absorb energy and they do, harmlessly absorbing energy in the form of a spectacular light show (energy that if it weren't stopped by something, would make us all dead).