The Beauty of Aurora Borealis

Threatening weather is normally our focus, but sometimes we simply take a step back to appreciate the beauty of our planet. Since weather radios provide continuous weather updates and not just emergency alerts, we're not really off-topic.  This incredible photograph of aurora borealis (the northern lights) was taken by Astrophotographer Mike Taylor over Moosehead Lake, Maine and published at Discovery News. Do you remember the science behind auroras?

Aurora borialis is an aurora that forms above the earth's northern magnetic pole. A similar aurora named aurora australis (the southern lights) forms over the magnetic pole of the southern hemisphere. Auroras are light displays that form in the sky when charged particles in the solar wind of our sun collide with gases in the earth's atmosphere in the magnetic fields above the earth's polar areas. These collisions cause atoms to gain and lose electrons and produce colors including light green, yellow, and red and pink.

The Northern Lights Centre at Watson Lake in the Yukon Territory in Canada advises that in North America, the best places to watch the lights are in the northwestern parts of Canada and Alaska in small towns and remote areas with less light pollution.  They also note that the winter season  provides good opportunities to view auroral displays due to the long periods of darkness and the frequency of clear nights.

Feeling inspired?  Then take a quick vacation and head up north this winter to see the great northern lights!