Cosmic Weather Lights up our Skies

2012 has been a year of great superstition due to cataclysmic predictions following the end of the Mayan calendar. Although the world may not quite be ending just yet, 2012 has seen a rise in the breathtaking phenomena known as the ‘Northern Lights’ attributed to some peculiar weather on the surface of our sun.

Sunspots are not those freckles you get after catching some rays. In fact, they are intense magnetic storms on the surface of the sun, resulting in an ejection of charged particles carried toward the earth by solar winds.  As these particles collide with the Earth’s atmosphere they react with the oxygen and nitrogen particles in our atmosphere. This creates a transfer of energy also known as a quantum leap. Simply put, the charged particles collide at high speed with electrons in the oxygen and nitrogen atoms. This leads to the release of extra energy as visible light, or more commonly known as the Aurora borealis or Northern lights.

Sun spots run on 11 year cycles and 2012 falls right after a period of low activity. From now until the solar max in 2013/14, there will be an increase in the occurrence of Aurora, so keep your eyes to the skies and witness physics in action.

- Words by Sarah-Jane Walsh

Follow me @moralcoral

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