The science behind the Aurora Borealis

So what are the Aurora, you ask? These dancing ribbons of coloured light occur in a zone named the auroral zone located at the very top of the Northern & Southern Hemispheres.

Scientists have learned that in most instances northern and southern auroras are mirror-like images that occur at the same time, with similar shapes and colours. When solar particles created by powerful solar winds from the sun collide with gases in the earth’s atmosphere, they create the spectacular ribbons of coloured light that shimmy their way across the night sky.

And what gives the aurora their famed spectrum of colour? Well, that’s down to the chemical make-up of the atmosphere. The most common auroral colour, a pale yellowish-green, is produced by oxygen molecules located about 60 miles above the earth. Rare, all-red auroras are produced by high-altitude oxygen, at heights of up to 200 miles, and blue/purple hues are due to nitrogen.

So, now you’re all clued up on the science of the Aurora, check out the best places to find them, from South Pole to North Pole.