Stargazers in Scotland, Ireland and England witnessed a colorful show both rare and spectacular Thursday night, when the Aurora Borealis cast its beautiful green, red and yellow lights farther south than usual.
Auroras occur when solar flares erupt from the surface of the Sun and travel millions of miles through space. When charged particles in the flares collide with nitrogen and oxygen in Earth’s upper atmosphere, they emit a photon of light. These small bursts of light are what make up the aurora.
The Aurora Borealis in Scotland last night photo by Stewart Watt pic.twitter.com/qAokUAT6b8
— Frater Alba Occultus (@FraterOccultus) February 28, 2014
Auroras occur in the Northern Hemisphere (Aurora Borealis) and the Southern Hemisphere (Aurora Australis) around the polar regions. However, Thursday’s geomagnetic activity made it possible for them to appear much farther south than usual.
The color of the aurora depends on the type of atom emitting light. Oxygen emits a green or brownish red color, and nitrogen emits a blue or red color.
NASA Astronaut Mike Hopkins tweeted this incredible photo of the Southern Lights from space during his mission aboard the Soyuz spacecraft orbiting Earth:
- Auroras are more common closer to the North and South Poles. They’ve even been spotted as far south as Mexico!
- Auroras can be seen year-round in places such as Alaska and Greenland.
- During the 1859 Solar Superstorm, auroras were reported as far south as Hawaii and Cuba!
- Auroras can be up to 600 miles high.
The WeatherBug – Earth Networks Team