Why do Auroras occur over both Poles-North and South?

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by Jeff Renner

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KING5.com

Posted on January 16, 2013 at 7:20 PM

Why do Auroras occur over both Poles-North and South?

To understand why we see auroras (northern/southern lights) over both poles, we need to begin by discussing what generates these spectacular and ghostly displays of glowing lights in the sky. It begins with charged particles from solar outbursts. As those particles race outward from the sun, some collide with the outer part of the earth's atmosphere-it's magnetic shield, or magnetosphere. To understand what happens next, think back to your elementary school science classes. Remember when a teacher handed you a bar magnet, which you laid on a piece of paper, and then sprinkled iron filings on the paper? You saw the filings arc around the sides of the bar magnet, collecting around either end...or pole of the magnet. The charged particles moving from the sun to the earth do the same thing. They dive down the low spots in the magnetosphere toward the poles, where they collide with the gases in our atmosphere. That collision results in the glow we call Aurora Borealis (northern lights) and Aurora Australis (southern lights).

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