First Alert Weather In Depth: What are the Northern Lights?

ROCHESTER, N.Y. – Well, if you stayed up late enough on Thursday and looked into the northern sky, especially along Lake Ontario, you probably saw the Northern Lights. And many of us saw them late Thursday night.

Before we get a look at how the aurora forms, lets get a check on some pictures from last night. Thank you guys for sending these in, they are absolutely beautiful images.

You can see all the purples, the greens, and even the blues in the sky as the skies cleared just in time along with a strong geomagnetic storms that rolled through around 11 p.m. last night. That created the beautiful images that you are seeing.

But, lets get a look at how the aurora forms, and it all begins with the sun. It emits what is called “solar radiation” which interacts with the magnetic field here on Earth. That magnetic field is very important as that protects us from the damaging radiation. But, this continues to interact with the atmosphere on Earth. That interaction with the electrons that are in solar radiation, and our gases on Earth, and depending on how deep the radiation penetrates, creates the colors you see.

And really what the aurora is, is a visualization of how the magnetic field on Earth protects us from the solar radiation. It’s definitely a beautiful sight with those green, blues, and pinks in the skies.