“Colouring the Night Sky” Talk by Alan Aylward

Tonight’s talk at the Cambridge Astronomy Assocation was by Alan Aylward who was telling us everything we needed to know about aurorae.

Aurora can actually be seen from space, and some images demonstrated this, with views from the NASA shuttle. Aurora were actually treated with fear in historical times.

Aurora OvalEarly research showed that aurorae actually extended around the poles of the Earth in a ring ~(as shown in the accompanying image), and the ring (more commonly called the “aurora oval”) does actually move, so depending on where it is, you may see an aurora.

Aurora’s have actually been visible from the UK, and we were told that in the UK we may have the chance to see aurora up to three times a year, but cloudy nights decrease our chances of viewing one.

The Earth’s aurorae are actually triggered by the Sun, as the solar winds interaction with the magnetosphere is mapped down into our atmosphere. We were also informed that there are different colours to the aurorae. A red aurora means that the aurora is very high in the atmosphere, whilst the middle height colour is green and a low aurora provides a purple colour in the sky.

We were told that Coronal Mass Ejections (CME’s) create the Earth’s aurorae activity, but other planets also have aurorae including Jupiter which creates its own aurorae with a lot of help from the volcanic moon Io. Saturn also have aurorae as well, but they are 100x less active than Jupiter’s.

Overall we learnt, that anything with magnetic fields has aurorae. This was a great talk that told us everything we wanted to know about aurorae, and even more besides.

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