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Physics related to Aurora Borealis help?

  1. Feb 14, 2013 #1
    Hey Physics World!

    Not sure what sort of responses I will get here but I thought to give it a shot.

    I am not a total physics nerds and I don't know all that there is to know about it... but from what I have learned so far from my college courses, it is my all time favorite science! I remember being a kid and often questioning things that I have in my older years come to find can actually be answered... by physics! My appreciation for this field has grown a lot.

    On another note, I am really into the Aurora Borealis because it is this beautiful Earthly phenomenon that needs so many elements to make its occurrence. I consider myself a very pragmatic person but at the same time find enjoyment at the amazement of life and its natural wonders. How so much is understood but yet so much more is unknown. Math, in particular, is something that is even more mind blowing to me. How we as a species created this 'language' that can be used to interpret and literally found in our world! Like... what!? We made it up!

    So anyway, I have been really toying with the idea of getting a physics equation tattoo. But how neat would it be to do something related to something abstract? Instead of the Aurora painted onto my body, to put it into a pragmatic equation. =D

    But what equations would relate to this? If there is any...
    What about the electromagnetic spectrum? I've read somewhere that chevron's radiation could be related to this phenomenon. I haven't gotten this far into my studies so some ideas of where to start for such a mathematical formula would be greatly appreciated!

  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 15, 2013 #2


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    "The science behind the northern lights

    But what exactly are the northern lights? It is the sun that lies behind the formation of the auroras. During large solar explosions and flares, huge quantities of particles are thrown out of the sun and into deep space.

    When the particles meet the Earth's magnetic shield, they are led towards a circle around the magnetic North Pole, where they interact with the upper layers of the atmosphere. The energy which is then released is the northern lights. All this happens approximatelty 100 kilometres above our heads."


    "As the electrons enter the earth's upper atmosphere, they will encounter atoms of oxygen and nitrogen at altitudes from 20 to 200 miles above the earth's surface. The color of the aurora depends on which atom is struck, and the altitude of the meeting.

    Green - oxygen, up to 150 miles in altitude
    Red - oxygen, above 150 miles in altitude
    Blue - nitrogen, up to 60 miles in altitude
    Purple/violet - nitrogen, above 60 miles in altitude"

    The solar wind reaching the Earth atmosphere, consist of high-speed charged particles, mainly electrons. Electrons interact with the atoms of the atmosphere, exiting them, and the excited atoms emit some radiation.
    The magnetic field of Earth forces the particles to travel along curved
    paths, around the magnetic pole.

    The equation for the emission of radiation is hf=E2-E1 where f is the frequency of the emitted light (that determines the color) and E1, E2 are the initial and final energies of the atom.
    The shape and dance of aurora borealis is governed by the Lorentz force: F=q(E+vxB) http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/348139/Lorentz-force where q is the charge, E is the electric field, B is the magnetic field and v is the velocity of the particle.

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