Atmosphere And Weather

What is Aurora Borealis and Austral Borealis



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Understanding Aurora and Australis Borealis

The undulating ribbons of rainbow hues in the night sky have left people awed and baffled for centuries.  Often appearing suddenly and magically, this colored light show will never fail to amaze, delight and inspire anyone who has had the pleasure of observing them firsthand.  Legends and myths abound regarding these mystic lights appearing from nowhere in the night skies. Making sense of the scientific reports of the phenomenon can be quite a daunting task.

What Aurora and Australis Borealis Are

The Aurora Borealis consists of travelling energy particles from the sun following magnetic lines that collide with atoms in the upper atmosphere causing the atom to send out photons that create flashes of colored light. The size of the activity is in direct correlation with a disturbance of the Earth’s magnetosphere, such as a solar flare or a sunspot. Any planet that is in the path of solar winds and has a dense atmosphere such as earth is capable of producing auroras.  Aurora Borealis can be seen in the Northern Hemisphere, and one of the best locations to view it is in Alaska, which is close to the North Pole.  Different gases that are activated by the energy particles colliding with atoms form the various colors. Oxygen particles cause yellowish green color, and higher in the atmosphere causes reddish colors. Nitrogen is responsible for causing blue and purplish colors.

The Australis Borealis is similar to the Aurora Borealis in the way that it occurs. The main difference is that while the Aurora Borealis can be observed in the Northern Hemisphere, the Australis Borealis can only be observed in the Southern Hemisphere.

Best Places to View

Each aurora forms an oval shape over the poles. This means that the closer a person is to one of the poles the more vibrant and visible the auroras.  The best places to see the Aurora Borealis tend to be Norway, Greenland, extreme northwestern USA, and Canada. Australis Borealis is seldom seen because the best places to see it are in the Indian Ocean and close to Antarctica.  Areas away from light sources provide the most vivid views as artificial lighting detracts significantly from the brightness of colors in the sky.

Best Time to View

Research indicates that Aurora and Australis Borealis activity becomes vigorous in a cycle of 11 years.  The next optimum viewing according to the 11-year cycle is 2013.  Winter is usually the best season to view them, as well as a clear dark night with no moonlight and no cloud coverage.

There is no doubt that there will always be some aura of mysticism surrounding Aurora and Australis Borealis that scientifically cannot be explained away.  The fact remains that viewing the constantly shifting curtains of glowing colors in the night sky will remain an awesome sight for years to come. 

Sources:

http://odin.gi.alaska.edu/FAQ/

 

More about this author: Kira Stann