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The Lighting up the night NICOLE IUTZI Lode Writer On certain nights the sky is aglow from a special event that occurs when the atmosphere is just right. Blazing colors light up the sky, a spectacle viewed only by those willing to stay up late. The northern lights, or aurora borealis, start at the sun. High-energy particle clouds called plasma in the solar wind eventually interact with the Earth’s magnetic field, trapping some of the particles. Particles are then drawn to the ionosphere by the magnetic pull. As particles collide with gases in the ionosphere, vibrant colors are produced, creating the The northern lights have frequently graced the Keweenaw this year. News: History of the Delaware Mine Photo by Scott Thompson 3 News: Tech sustainability efforts move forward 5 Pulse: Royal dancers and drummers bring Africa to Tech 6 northern lights. To break it down, particles that cause the aurora are energetic and come from the magnetosphere, a geospace environment. Although protons are important in producing the lights, it is mostly electrons that are the cause. By following magnetic field lines, the electrons are guided to high altitudes where the chance of colliding with an atom or molecule increases the deeper the particle goes. Once a collision takes place, the atom takes some of the energy from the particle and stores it as extra energy. In order for the atom to return to a non-excited state, it sends off a photon, making light in the process. Colors of the aurora come from the different compositions and densities of the atmosphere and altitude. Colors are generally green, blue, red and purple. Solar wind, the outermost atmosphere of the sun, is made up of protons and electrons. Within the solar Opinion: Closing the door on discrimination 11 wind is also the magnetic field of the sun. At the meeting of the solar wind and Earth’s magnetosphere, energy is transferred through different processes including reconnection. This is when the fields melt together and the solar wind drags the magnetosphere and plasma along. The bottom edge of the aurora is generally at 60 miles. High altitude auroras can be seen up to 350 miles away. Scientists are able to predict when the northern lights will occur and who will be able to view them. Generally the best viewing of the northern lights is from Alaska, and Canada, but it can also be seen from the most northern parts of North America, including Houghton. For more information about the Aurora Borealis and viewing times visit ( weather/aurora), brought to you by Michigan Tech Geological and Mining Engineering and Sciences. Sports: 15 Hockey hosts No. 1 University of Minnesota


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