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Earth Aurora

Image of Earth Aurora
THE LIGHT SHOW OF A LIFETIME: For many who have seen it, the Aurora Borealis is a spectacle to remember. Aurorae are caused by currents of energetic charged particles in Earth's magnetosphere flowing through the upper atmosphere. The interaction of the solar wind with Earth's magnetosphere drives these currents. The more active the Sun, especially during the peak of its 11-year solar cycle, the more charged particles flow to Earth’s magnetic poles. These charged particles eventually collide with gas molecules in the upper atmosphere, causing them to ionize and emit colored light. Since the next solar maximum will occur in May, 2013, more of these gorgeous light shows can be expected, perhaps even at lower latitudes. Image Credit: Pekka Parviainen/Science Photo Library
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