I Northern lights and the magnetic field

When we see the aurora moving rapidly are we effectively seeing the Earths Magnetic field moving ? Is that part of the explanation for the morphology of the aurora and why they never look quite the same?
 

stefan r

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When we see the aurora moving rapidly are we effectively seeing the Earths Magnetic field moving ? Is that part of the explanation for the morphology of the aurora and why they never look quite the same?
I believe the particles are different. They enter the atmosphere at different velocity and from various angles.
 
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The Earth's magnetic field is not static unchanging, and the solar wind is not either.
 
My understanding is that what you are seeing is collisions between oxygen molecules in the atmosphere and electrons and ions from a solar flair. What causes the pattern rather than just a random set of static like you would logically get I can not answer. Magnetism makes sense to me, since it mostly happens near the poles of the earth.
 

DrClaude

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davenn

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When we see the aurora moving rapidly are we effectively seeing the Earths Magnetic field moving ?
Yes

The Earth's magnetic field is not static unchanging, and the solar wind is not either.
Exactly, and this is particularly true when there are strong blasts of charged particles from the sun. The 2 main sources of these intense bursts of particles are from solar flares ( @thisisweak ) and from coronal holes.
The Solar wind is constantly spewing material into the surrounding space and in those conditions normally doesn't produce visible aurorae ( around the north and south poles) tho there can be weak radio aurora.

Coronal holes can produce minor to moderate geomagnetic storms. It's the significant solar flares M5 +++ with associated CME's ( Coronal Mass Ejections) that produce the moderate to major geomagnetic storms.
All significant pulses of particles from the sun cause the Earth's magnetic field to "flex" as those waves of particles push against it. and this is the main reason we see the waving motion in the auroral curtain.



Dave
 

jasonRF

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There are a number of different types of aurora, and the causes are still a very active area of research. A number of models have been proposed, and a fair amount of data has been collected as well. One of the challenges for gaining understanding is that we are lucky when we have even one spacecraft in the right place at the right time to measure what is going on above interesting auroral features that we see from the ground.

Some of the more rapid, small-scale dynamics of discrete auroral forms are often attributed to Alfven wave structures in the upper ionosphere (above 1000 km, say). These waves can have electric field components parallel to the geomagnetic field so can accelerate the electrons towards the Earth. The dynamics of the waves (incident from above) as they reflect from the upper ionosphere and/or interfere with each other and/or breakup due to instabilities can be complex. In this model the rapid change in the auroral arcs are a consequence of the parallel electric fields associated with those wave structures, not rapid movement of geomagnetic field lines. There have been measurements, including quite recently, of these kinds of wave structures above the aurora. The temporal and spatial scales associated with the waves correspond with relevant scales of auroral forms, and numerical simulations of these kinds of wave structures are also consistent.

Other types of observed auroral structures, such as auroral spirals, may be due to instabilities associated with the thin current sheets of downward-moving electrons. Some of the instabilities could create vortex-street like structures ("spirals") that you also see in other types of fluid motion.

I'm sure there are a number of other mechanisms as well, but I am not an expert in this field so don't know what-all is known. If you do a search on google scholar you should find many publications on this topic.

Jason
 

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