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What causes the Auroras?

Most auroras occur in response to energetic particles from a solar storm, which cause the gases of the thin upper atmosphere to glow. They take place at heights between 50 to 100 miles above the Earth. The aurora can last anywhere between a few minutes to several hours. Auroras are most common in polar regions. The various colors, of which green and red predominate, are the results of various light emissions from oxygen and nitrogen gases being energized by the solar particles.

Auroras are wondrous and mysterious phenomena occurring primarily in the polar regions of the Earth. During an aurora, coloured bands of light appear in the sky and seem to dance around creating an eerie yet spectacular light show in the sky. They are a constantly occurring phenomenon, although they are much easier to see when the sky is dark. Many parts of the world where auroras occur frequently have developed thriving tourism industries because of them.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the phenomenon of the aurora is commonly known as the Northern Lights. Italian astronomer and mathematician Galileo Galilei gave the Northern Lights their Latin name, Aurora Borealis, which literally means "northern red dawn." Auroras occurring in the Southern Hemisphere are called the Aurora Australis, which translates to their more common name, the Southern Lights.

Humans have been fascinated by auroras for centuries. The ancient folklore of far northern cultures came up with very creative and interesting stories to explain the strange lights in the sky. The stories are as diverse as the cultures inhabiting this part of the planet. It has since been discovered that auroras are, in fact, the result of charged particles from the solar wind interacting with the Earth's magnetic field and the various gasses in the Earth's atmosphere.

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