September Aurora

September 22, 2005

Aur11sept056 copy

Provided by: Philippe Moussette
Summary authors & editors: Jim Foster; Philippe Moussette

This stunning photo of the northern lights was captured on September 11 from Orleand Island in Québec, Canada. If you look closely, you may be able to identify a number of bright stars through this auroral gossamer (click on image for a larger view). Even though these shimmering curtains and filaments of light often appear close by, they occur approximately 100 kilometers above the surface of the Earth. The northern lights or aurora borealis result when charged particles blasted from the Sun become captured by the Earth’s magnetic field and spiral down toward the north and south poles. In doing so, they collide with gases (primarily nitrogen and oxygen) in the Earth's upper atmosphere. These collisions cause the gases to glow a variety of colors, but mostly shades of green and red. On this picture, the reds appear as purple and pink.

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