The phenomenon of Aurora Borealis

BBC’s series Frozen Planet investigates another natural wonder of the Earth as they film scientists researching the effects of the Northern Lights, or Aurora Borealis, on the atmosphere.

The brilliant light show that occurs every winter in the Arctic is created when the magnetic pull of the North Pole lures in electrically intense particles evaporating from the sun. As the solar wind particles collide with those of the polar region they create an aurora that  acts as a reminder of the sun’s presence during the dark days of  Arctic winters.

While Aurora Borealis captures our attention as an amazing natural phenomenon, scientists recognize that the lights possess the potential to have a negative impact on the whole Northern Hemisphere. The geometric storm can affect satellites, power grids, navigation and communication systems as well as deteriorate  oil pipelines.

A main way scientists research the relationship between the atmosphere and space environment is through launching smoke rockets into the air at bases such as the Poker Flat Research Range in Alaska. They are able to track the way the chemical trails released by the rockets are affected by the winds created from Aurora Borealis and then use their measurements to predict future space weather. Professor Dirk Lummerzheim, aurora expect from the Poker Flat Range stated that “If we can predict space weather, we can prepare for it and mitigate the dangers.”

Read more about the wonders of the Northern Lights on BBC Nature and on Frozen Plant!

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