The Aurora Borealis

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The Aurora Borealis is made when storms on the the sun form solar winds, or large streams of charged particles streaming toward the earth.These streams could have upward of ten million megawatts of electrical power. That is enough power to light up Los Angeles. It generally takes about three days for these streams of particles to reach the earth's upper atmosphere, or ionosphere. When these charged particles hit the earth's atmosphere, they excite the atoms contained in the atmosphere. These excited atoms have a higher energy state that usual and so want to get back to a more normal energy state. The excited atoms give off excess energy in the form of heat, or the case of the Aurora Borealis, light. The trillions of excited atoms give off enough light so that we can see the light from where we live on the ground, 43-200 miles above us. The Aurora Borealis is most often seen in a striking green color, but it also occasionally shows off its many colors ranging from red to pink, blue to purple, dark to light. The reason that the aurora is seen in so many colors is that our atmosphere is made up of many different compounds like Oxygen and Nitrogen. When the charged particles that come from the sun hit the atoms and molecules of the Earth's atmosphere, they excite those atoms, giving off light. Different atoms give off different colors of the spectrum when they are excited. A familiar example is the Neon lights that we see on many business signs in our modern world. The Neon lights contain the gas Neon. These lights have electricity run through them to excite the Neon gas. When the Neon is excited, it gives off a brilliant red-orange color. The Neon lights are the same idea as the aurora, only on a lot smaller scale. Different ga... ... middle of paper ... ... as a story from Scotland, tell of battles in the sky with showers of red blood. A story from the Northern Hebrides attributes the aurora to supernatural beings called Blue Men. During an active display of the aurora the Blue Men are called the Merry Dancers also known as na fir chlis (Gaelic for quick, nimble men). When the aurora moves rapidly, there is believed to be a battle going on between clans. The red light was attributed the the blood spilled during these battles. In Norse mythology, there is reference to Bifrost, or a bridge to the sky built by the Gods. This bridges was said to be on fire to keep the Giants out. In Medieval art, the aurora was dipicted as candles in the sky. In Greenland, it was said that the aurora represented the dead playing with the head of a walrus. No matter what the tale, they are all interesting and are worthy of reading.
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