What is the Aurora Borealis?

The aurora borealis, also known as the ‘northern lights’, is one of the most fascinating displays in the night sky.

The phenomenon is a natural display of light in the northern hemisphere. The northern lights are caused by an interaction between Earth’s magnetic field and charged particles emitted by the sun.

It forms when charged particles emitted from the sun during a solar flare reach the earth’s magnetic shield and collide with atoms and molecules in the atmosphere. The collisions lead to little bursts of light, called photons, that make up the aurora.

Northern Lights seen in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia
Northern Lights seen in Shenandoah National Park, Virginia(Peter Forister Photography)

Ripples of light in many hues have been reported, with the most common being pale green and pink - although, shades of purple, yellow, green, blue and red have also been sighted.

The aurora borealis can appear in many forms, from patches or scattered clouds to streamers or curtains. The lights move, changing shape and color from time to time.