September 26, 2023



Scientist Say They Now Know How an Aurora Occurs


By Liz MacGahan,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 12, 2021 11:03 AM CDT
(NEWSER) – Physicists say they know how the awe-inspiring aurora borealis light shows are formed and can for the first time prove it in a lab. It all has to do with surfing and waves. Electrons traveling to Earth can catch waves, called Alfvén waves, which pick them up and throw them at our planet much faster—think 45mph. Those electrons hit the atmosphere, and when everything settles down, an aurora blossoms, resulting in what we know as the northern lights. This has been the assumption for decades, first suggested by Soviet scientist Lev Landau, but now it has been measured, NPR reports. Researchers from the University of Iowa, Wheaton College, and UCLA used something called a Large Plasma Device to prove electrons can hitch rides on Alfvén waves.


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