The Northern Lights

The Northern Lights are a natural phenomenon that appear to be fresh out of a fantasy novel. Otherwise known as Aurora Borealis, these lights are the product of the Earth’s magnetic field and high energy particles from the sun. Normally our magnetic field is invisible, but in certain locations, like the Earth’s poles, they become more visible when impacted by high energy light from our solar system’s star. The different colors are the result of the composition of our atmosphere (green for oxygen, and red/blue for nitrogen).

The Northern Lights visible in Iceland

While our magnetic field is a sight to behold when made visible near our poles, its true role in our lives is much more significant. The light that is being absorbed by our magnetic field would prove deadly to life on earth if it were left unimpeded. Furthermore, some species are able to actually navigate by detecting these magnetic fields. Migratory birds and fish are able to navigate long distances thanks to these forces. Scientists are still currently conducting research on other walks of life, and it seems that a larger portion of the animal kingdom can sense these magnetic forces than we first thought. The Earth is unique in how strong its magnetosphere is. This strength is due to having electrically charged liquid, and rotation. We aren’t alone in this regard, Jupiter has a strong magnetic field too!

Published by fermifurby

Vanderbilt student currently in ASTR2110, excited to learn!

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