As the days grow shorter in the Northern Hemisphere, your chances of spotting the Northern Lights, or aurora borealis, grow stronger in high-latitude regions:

As the days grow shorter in the Northern Hemisphere, your chances of spotting the Northern Lights, or aurora borealis, grow stronger in high-latitude regions:

But what causes these naturally occurring and dazzling light shows? Collisions between charged particles from solar wind and oxygen and nitrogen in Earth’s atmosphere, which excite the air molecules. As the oxygen and nitrogen molecules revert to their normal state, they release photons, or small bursts of energy in the form of light—which is what we see on the ground below. The color of these hypnotizing displays is determined by what’s colliding: oxygen produces yellows and greens, while nitrogen is responsible for reds, violets, and blues.

 

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