9:26pm

Sun April 10, 2011
13.7: Cosmos And Culture

The Magnetic Glory Of The Aurora

An Aurora is the result of giant solar outbursts of magnetism and matter slamming into the Earth's own magnetic shield. Charged particles from the solar wind stream down along Earth's magnetic field lines to the poles. When these particles collide with atmospheric atoms, the atoms emit light in a range of spectacular colors. The movement of the auroral sheets reflects the pulsing interaction of high altitude matter and magnetism.

For technological societies solar storms can pose serious problems ranging from satellite failure to overwhelming electrical grids. But let's not worry about yet another impending distaster right now and just enjoy the show in this remarkable time-lapse video. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.