Pages
Fair Work First Stay Official Coach Travel Live-In Motorhomes Camping At Music at the multiverse 2024 Music at the Multiverse 2024 Annual Passes Geotourist Digital Tours Educational Visits Sustainability Meet The Staff Team Weddings at Crawick Multiverse Photography and Filming Local Area Explore Music at the Multiverse 2023 Music at the Multiverse FAQs Music at the Multiverse 2021 Getting to Music at the Multiverse Plan your Trip Past Events Music at the Multiverse Cosmic Collisions Music at The Multiverse 2022 Frequently Asked Questions My account Checkout Basket Online Shop Accessibility Terms and Conditions Facilities Sustainable Development Groups and Travel Trade Opening Times and Prices Latest News Events at the Multiverse Visit Crawick Multiverse Charles Jencks Comet Walk Belvedere and Void Omphalos Supercluster Multiverse North-South Path Andromeda and The Milky Way Amphitheatre Hire Crawick Multiverse The Trust History Privacy Policy Landforms Contact and Find Us Discover Home
Posts
WHAT IS BEHIND THE AURORA? south of scotland to host european lunar symposium in 2024 BUCKET LIST EXPERIENCE Join our team – We’re hiring! Historic Environment Scotland designates Crawick Multiverse Counting the days and the stars Music at the Multiverse Main Stage REopening on 23rd march ongoing site improvements Music at the Multiverse 2024 Closed for the season Two weekends to go… Festival-Goers Double in a Year Record Ticket Sales for Music Fest Music Fest Set to Rock the Multiverse in September Crawick Multiverse Supports Local Men’s Shed after Site Works Solstice celebrations at the multiverse Dawn of Summer Solstice Celebrated Among Andromeda’s Standing Stones Summer Solstice with Prof Graham Harvey Summer Solstice Week 2023 Arts Festival 2023 Summer Solstice Celebrations are Back Bigger and Better Contract Opportunity – Event Co-Ordinator/Promorter Crawick rocked again at Music at the multiverse Dance Tent DJs set for ‘mind blowing’ Music at the Multiverse weekend Get ready to rock the cosmos – Music at the Multiverse is back! D&G Arts Festival 2022 Ready To Open Membership 2022 What’s it All About? Groundworks The Coalface Regional Finalist Crawick Rocks Kelton the Beltie Bull Kelton comes to Crawick Two Days. One Spectacular Venue Official Opening of The Coalface We are Hiring The Multiverse is Hiring Your Views Wedding Photography We’re Hiring – Administrator Festival of Folklore South of Scotland Tourism Investment Big Bang Weekend Invitation to Tender Meteor Shower VisitScotland Campaign New Stargazing Programme Stellar New Appointment Rolls Royce Vintage cars Edinburgh Art Festival A Day in the Life: Volunteer Supernatural in Sanquhar Out of this World Back to the Killing Times Cosmic Collisions with a Big Bang Norse Legend Plus Galactic Collisions Boulders From Mars Unicorn flight to Dalkeith Scottish Creative Collision Pupils in Cosmic Collision Charles Jencks and Daniel Libeskind Summer Solstice Exploration New Sculpture is Mane Attraction World-class Artland Gearing Up Business Creativity Award The Poppy Project Pupils create poppy display the great outdoors Doors open for annual event Artwork Unveiled Pupils in solstice spectacular solar science talks New Charles Jencks installation Spectacular Solstice Festival Team Is Out Of This World Local Returns to Upper Nithsdale Out of this World Launch Crawick Multiverse is Hiring New Scottish artland Share the Vision with Artland Trust
 

News

WHAT IS BEHIND THE AURORA?

Home | News | WHAT IS BEHIND THE AURORA?

Did you see the aurora at the weekend? Are you desperate to see it again? Or even just wondering what the “northern lights” actually are?

Guest Blog by Ishbel Carlyle. Photography by Mike Bolam.

Photos: Aurora Borealis at Crawick Multiverse by Mike Bolam (10 May 2024) See full album here.

THE SUN’S ROLE

The Aurora may seem so ethereal because it is not actually caused by anything here on Earth. It is all to do with the Sun.

The Sun is made up of plasma, the extreme high-energy 4th state of matter. As with most extremes in physics this means it has some weird properties. For example, the Sun is spotty. It has loops of the plasma coming out of the surface whose feet we can see as dark spots on the Sun. When we look at different types of light such as ultra violet we can see these loops, they make the Sun look hairy. These loops are actually magnetic fields.

Figure 1: Image Credit Solar dynamic Orbiter NASA,  UV image Photo credit: Mike Bolam – Solar Disk with Sunspot AR3664, 10th May 2024

Maybe think of the loops not as hairs, but as elastic bands. What happens when you stretch one of those too much? SNAP! Same thing happens with the Sun loops and all the Plasma that was suspended in the loop is thrown out into space. Basically, the Sun burps. And sometimes Earth gets a face full.

SOLAR ACTIVITY AND THE 11 YEAR CYCLE

The amount of burps changes on an 11 year cycle. Every 11 years the sun gets spottier, then less spotty. Why? We do not know. Yet. Currently we are heading for the peak of the activity going into 2025. So, the next few years are going to be great Aurora-Hunting years. The more spots, the more loops and the more plasma potentially being thrown our way.

But we do not see something like last weekend every 11 years, so what happened? Well, the Sun did not just burp, it puked. There is such an active spot section (Region 3664) on the Sun that it spewed out some of the biggest ejections of plasma in recorded history.

HOW THE AURORA GLOWS

So what happens when the plasma from the Sun reaches us? Is it the plasma we see in the atmosphere? Not exactly. The plasma is charged, so when it interacts with our very own magnetic field it is channelled to the north and south poles where the magnetic fields are the strongest. Our magnetic field is shaped a bit like a bar magnet. When the charged particles are accelerated along our magnetic field into our atmosphere, they collide with the atoms in our atmosphere which in turn glow. This is what we see as the Northern and Southern lights. The more particles pummelling into our atmosphere in the north and south, the further down towards the equator the effects can be seen.

Figure 2: Image credit  GoOpti (https://www.goopti.com/en/about/goopti_blog/aurora-borealis-where-to-see-the-northern-lights-in-2020)

In the upper atmosphere the main elements present are Oxygen and Nitrogen. Oxygen glows green and red, and Nitrogen glows blue and purple. This is why we were seeing so many amazing layers of colours through the sky. The different colours and intensities depend on the amount and the energy of the incoming particles.

Whilst we may not get another display like last week’s anytime soon, Scotland is not a bad place to be during the solar cycle peak, and with the Dark skies of Dumfries and Galloway there are some great odds for seeing the Dancing lights light up the sky over the next few years.

Figure 3: Colours of Aurora

Graphics and Guest Blog supplied by Ishbel Carlyle, PhD Student, Northumbria University (16 May 2024)

Photos by Mike Bolam. See full Crawick Multiverse Aurora Gallery by Mike Bolam here.

 
crawick-accreditation-Bioshphere
crawick-accreditation-4-star-visitor-attraction
crawick-accreditation-living-wage-employer
crawick-accreditation-asva
crawick-accreditation-eu
crawick-accreditation-leader
crawick-accreditation-scottish-government
crawick-accreditation-SRDP
This project is part-financed by the Scottish Government and the European Union – LEADER 2014-2020 programme
Translate »
This site uses cookies.
ConfigureHide Options
 
Read our privacy policy

This site uses cookies for marketing, personalisation, and analysis purposes. You can opt out of this at any time or view our full privacy policy for more information.