Thursday, January 28, 2010

Auroras continue to mesmerize and leave us awestruck with wonder. Very few are fortunate enough to witness these beautiful events in person. I was one of those lucky ones.
My parents and I lived in Anchorage, Alaska for part of my childhood. To see the entire sky light up and dance is overpowering and spiritual, but then again, Alaska was majestic in every way.

Although there is nothing like seeing this undulating ballet of light that literally fillsthe night sky, I have collected some of the best images available.

Auroras form when charged protons and electrons from the sun penetrate the earth's magnetic shield. Known as solar wind, they collide with the atoms and molecules in our atmosphere, resulting in a multitude of light bursts, called photons.

The different colors occur when these protons and electrons collide with different elements in our atmosphere. For instance, collisions with oxygen produce red and green auroras where those with nitrogen produce pink and green colors.

Auroras, of course, commonly occur in a small range of latitude, usually between 60 and 70 degrees,but during great geomagnetic storms,they can be seen as close as 30 degrees from the equator.

Interestingly,they are more commonly seen between the hours of midnight and 2 AM, and are more common during the winter months.

There is an 11 year solar cycle that drives the tempo of auroras. The most recent peak of aurora activity was during the winter of 2000 - 2001, with the next peak anticipated to occur in 2011.

This unusual image was captured in Iceland in 1991, when the volcano Hekla erupted during a dramatic aurora display.

This image certainly demonstrates the immense size of a typical aurora display.

More Aurora Images