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Aurora Borealis

the Northern Lights

Often we are asked if it is possible to see the Aurora Borealis from Cherry Springs, and the answer is YES...however...you need to know what they are to understand if they will or will not be visible. Simply put, an aurora is created when a solar flare or coronal mass ejection occurs on the sun. Every 11 years or so, the magnetic poles of sun "switch"places from north to south and as they approach the equator area of the sun, solar activity greatly increases. We have been in a period of solar minimum, but solar maximum is expected to be closer to 2012. As this plasma energy approaches the earth, it "excites " the electrons in our our magnetic field, causing it to glow. This energy will actually bend our own magnetic fields around the Earth. Depending on where the energy hits the earth and how strong it is will determine where an aurora will be seen. In the year 2002 we were able to see several spectacula views of the northern lights, but it has been quiet now for nearly a decade.

There is more information about aurora's at www.skyandtelescope.com, or www.spaceweather.com, www.nasa.gov


Image of Aurora Borealis taken at Cherry Springs in October 2011 by Soroush Khanlou.  Image provided by John Gillies with permission