Why do the northern lights happen? Why do the blue, green and violet lights appear in the sky and ripple in a moment of beauty? Well, researchers may have finally figured it out.
Why do northern lights happen?
- This then “creates cosmic undulations known as Alfvén waves that launch electrons at high speeds into Earth’s atmosphere where they create the aurora,” according to NPR.
The researchers — physicists from the University of Iowa — found that “most brilliant auroras are produced by powerful electromagnetic waves during geomagnetic storms,” according to the new study.
- Essentially, the Alfvén waves “accelerate electrons toward Earth, causing the particles to produce the light show we know as the northern lights,” according to CNN.
- “It was sort of theorized that that’s where the energy exchange is occurring,” Howes told NPR. “But no one had ever come up with a definitive demonstration that the Alfvén waves actually accelerate these electrons under the appropriate conditions that you have in space above the aurora.”
Researchers told CNN that there’s still a long way to go for them to understand how to produce the northern lights and to understand how strong the northern lights will be when they appear.
- “Predicting how strong a particular geomagnetic storm will be, based on observations of the sun and measurements from spacecraft between the Earth and the sun, remains an unsolved challenge,” Howes told CNN.