Scientists Have Figured Out What Causes Northern Lights

Posted: Feb 18 2018, 4:34am CST | by , Updated: Feb 18 2018, 4:39am CST, in News | Latest Science News

Scientists have Figured Out What Causes Northern Lights
Credit: NASA

The shower of electrons, commonly known as the Northern Lights, has been directly observed for the first time by scientists

For the first time, researchers have directly observed Northern Lights and identified the mechanism that triggers them.

Northern Lights, also known as Aurora Borealis, are a magnificent display of light. The natural light show is most frequently witnessed from the polar regions and holds a fascination for both skywatchers and scientists.

Auroras are believed to be created by interactions between energetic particles from the Sun and the Earth's magnetic field. When charged particles released from sun enter the Earth’s atmosphere, they collide with local gaseous particles and produce colorful display of lights. However, the exact processes involved in northern lights were never verified through observation.

By using satellite and advanced measuring tools, researchers have now confirmed that this phenomenon is caused by the hard-to-detect interaction between electrons and plasma waves and the interaction occurs in the Earth's magnetosphere. Magnetosphere is a region around the Earth in which the behavior of the electric particles is usually controlled by the planet's magnetic field.

"Auroral substorms are caused by global reconfiguration in the magnetosphere, which releases stored solar wind energy," said lead researcher Satoshi Kasahara from University of Tokyo.

“For the first time, we have directly observed scattering of electrons by chorus waves generating particle precipitation into the Earth's atmosphere. The precipitating electron flux was sufficiently intense to generate pulsating aurora."

Just as waves travel across the ocean and move in certain motion, disturbances in space, can also cause waves. The plasma wave that is responsible for pushing electrons to the upper atmosphere is called chorus waves.

However, it is difficult to distinguish which electrons are moved by chorus waves. To find out, researchers designed a specialized electron sensor and used it to detect the precise interactions of auroral electrons driven by chorus waves.

The sensor was installed on the Exploration of Energization and Radiation in Geospace (ERG) satellite, launched by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency and could reveal further details of plasma physics, resulting in Northern lights.

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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