Aurora (also known as the polar lights) are a natural display of curtains, rays, spirals, and flickering patterns of light in the northern polar latitudes (Aurora Borealis) and southern polar latitudes (Aurora Australis). They are most prominent after dark.

  • Aurora are the result of charged particles (electrons) produced by the Sun (solar wind) interacting with Earth’s magnetosphere.
  • The magnetosphere accelerates electrons as they plunge into the atmosphere during their final few 10,000 km journeys from the Sun.
  • The colour and pattern of aurora depend partly upon the amount of acceleration imparted to the precipitating particles.
Related diagrams

Each diagram below can be viewed on its own page with a full explanation.