Great Land of Alaska

Aurora Borealis

The Aurora borealis (or, known by many Alaskans as "The Lights") are one of Alaska's most spectactular winter scenes. On a cold, dark winter night, one may look up and see what looks like a faint green flame flickering in the sky. As the minutes go by, this faint flame may grow and expand, eventually covering half of the sky and becoming so bright that it casts shadows of objects on the ground, all the while moving so rapidly that it looks like the sky is on fire. After several more minutes, it may fade only to reappear later, or may completely disappear for the rest of the night.

The origin of the Aurora borealis is the sun. Every now and then a solar flare on the sun's surface will send a bunch of charged particles hurtling through space. If the Earth is in the path of this cloud, some of the particles will become trapped in the Earth's magnetic field and will follow the lines of magnetic force to the magnetic north and south poles where they enter the atmosphere. As the particles encounter the various gasses of the atmosphere, they begin to glow in colors such as green (the most common colour), red, blue, and violet.

Aurora Borealis (a.k.a. "The Lights")

The Lights over the Chugach Mountains Another shot of the lights Curtain effect Curtain effect Bright Bright Curtain effect Curtain effect Trees in foreground Trees in foreground Very slight bit of red

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