Auroras result from emissions of photons in the Earth’s upper atmosphere, above 80 km (50 miles), from ionized nitrogen  atoms regaining an electron, and oxygen and nitrogen  atoms returning from an excited state to ground state. They are ionized or excited  by the collision of solar wind and magnetospheric  particles being funneled down and accelerated along the Earth’s magnetic field lines; excitation energy is lost by the emission of a photon of light, or by collision with another atom or molecule:

 

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