One of the most beautiful events to occur in our world, the Auroras, has both astounded and amazed people since it was first discovered.
This phenomenon ocurrs when the sun gives off high-energy charged particles (also called ions) that travel out into space at speeds of 300 to 1200 kilometres per second. A cloud of such particles is called a plasma. The stream of plasma coming from the sun is known as the solar wind. As the solar wind interacts with the edge of the earth’s magnetic field, some of the particles are trapped by it and they follow the lines of magnetic force down into the ionosphere, the section of the earth’s atmosphere that extends from about 60 to 600 kilometers above the earth’s surface. When the particles collide with the gases in the ionosphere they start to glow, producing the spectacle that we know as the auroras, northern and southern.
In northern latitudes, the effect is known as the aurora borealis, named after the Roman goddess of dawn, Aurora, and the Greek name for the north wind, Boreas, by Pierre Gassendi in 1621.
Its southern counterpart, the aurora australis (or the southern lights), has almost identical features to the aurora borealis and changes simultaneously with changes in the northern auroral zone and is visible from high southern latitudes in Antarctica, South America and Australia.