Spectacular northern lights
Spectacular Northern Lights have lit up the skies above Scotland, Canada and Norway after the biggest solar storm in more than six years bombarded Earth with radiation. The Canadian Space Agency posted a geomagnetic storm warning on Tuesday after residents were also treated to a spectacular show in the night sky. Ken Kennedy, director of the Aurora section of the British Astronomical Association, said that the lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis, may be visible for a few more days (information from dailymail.co.uk).
The Aurora Borealis, also called the Northern Lights, is a broad display of rather faint light in the northern skies at night. The Aurora Australis, a similar phenomenon, appears at the same time in southern skies. The Aurora appears in a wide variety of forms. Sometimes it is seen as a quiet glow, almost foglike in character, sometimes as vertical streamers in which there may be a considerable motion, sometimes as a series of luminous expanding arcs. There are many colors, with white, yellow, and red predominating.
The Sun produces a stream of charged particles, called the solar wind. These particles, mainly electrons and protons approach Earth at speeds on the order of 300 mi per second. Coronal mass ejections are large-scale, high-speed releases of as much as 10 billion tons of coronal material. Some of these particles are trapped by Earth’s magnetic field, forming the Van Allen belts – 2 donut-shaped radiation bands around Earth. Excess amounts of these charged particles, often produced by solar flares, follow Earth’s magnetic lines of force toward Earth’s magnetic poles. High in the atmosphere, collisions between solar and terrestrial atoms result in the glow in the upper atmosphere called the Aurora. The glow may be vivid where the lines of magnetic force converge near the magnitic poles.
Aurora is another word for the northern lights. Outstanding Russian poet A. Pushkin, inspired by the beauty of Northern lights, wrote a poem:
Snow, frost and sunshine … Lovely morning!
Yet you, dear love, its magic scorning,
Are still abed … Awake my sweet!
Cast sleep away, I beg, and, rising,
Yourself a northern star, the blazing
Aurora, northern beauty, meet.
Last night a snowstorm raged, remember;
A turbid haze swam in the somber,
Wind – ravaged sky, and through the gray
Murk of the clouds the moon shone dully,
And you sat listless, melancholy …
But now – look out the window, pray –
‘Neat lucid skies of clearest azure,
Great snowy carpets, winter’s treasure,
A rich and dazzling sight, lie spread.
The wood is etched against them darkly,
The first, rime – starred, are green and sparkling,
In shiny mail the stream is clad.
A mellow glow like that of amber
Illumes the room … Its good to linger
Beside the gaily crackling stove,
And think and dream … But let our honest
Brown mare without delay by harnessed
That we may take a slag ride, love.
We’ll give free rein to her, and lightly,
The snow of morning gleaming brightly,
Skim over it, and, full of glee,
Cross empty fields and empty meadows,
A once green wood with trees like shadows,
A stream and bank long dear to me.
Alexander S. Pushkin