The northern lights exist in an oval shaped area called the aurora oval, and this oval rotates with its center in the geomagnetic north pole.
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The size of this oval varies on an hourly basis with the amount of incoming solar particles. The best observation sites of the aurora borealis are underneath the oval where there is the most geomagnetic activity. Geomagnetic energy is measured in Kp index, which is a scale from 0 to 9. A high Kp indicates a higher chance of auroral activity. One usually needs a Kp of around 3 to be capable to witness an aurora. The oval usually occurs over northern parts of the Nordic countries, including all of Greenland and Svalbard, northern parts of Alaska, Canada and Russia.
Though auroras occur all day, the day-side aurora has much weaker light than the night-side auroras. Strong daylight also outshines the day-side aurora, so you will have to observe the aurora during night- usually in the hours around midnight. Further down south observation time decreases rapidly as one reaches the outskirts of the aurora oval.
Though the oval usually stays high in the Northern Hemisphere it does have capabilities to reach parts of the southern United States.
On November 6th, , it reached down to Texas, and once every th year it goes all the way down to the equator. Auroras are more frequent late autumn and early spring. Also, the sun has an eleven year sun spot cycle. Every eleventh year the number of spots peak and the number of solar particles thrown out into space increases dramatically. Aurora activity remains high one to two years after this event, which is called Solar Maximum.
We had solar maximum around new year, , and the next is expected to occur around or These lights come in a variation of colors.
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The spectrum of visible light associated with the aurora is much narrower. The aurora is caused by particles of the solar wind colliding with atmospheric atoms and ions. The atmosphere consists mainly of nitrogen and oxygen, which when hit, emits characteristic colors. The colors that these gasses emit are green, red, bluish, and yellow. There are also seven differentiations in the shape that the auroras will take: Homogeneous arc, arc with ray structure, homogeneous band, band with ray structure, curtains, rays, and corona.
In the early 20th century, auroral research focused on light emission, altitude, distribution and color. Today, scientists strive to understand the processes that produce the various forms of the northern lights and attempt to explain their changes in time and space. General interest in possible global climatic change has increased in recent decades.
Because atmospheric conditions in the altitudes of the aurora appear to have a long-term effect on weather, auroral research has received heightened attention. Aurora Borealis. Accessed October 19, This is just a sample.
Northern lights: How 'black' auroras actually work -- ScienceDaily
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While auroras form when charged particles collide with the upper atmosphere, scientists have yet to figure out exactly what causes a STEVE to occur. There are additional types of light in the sky as well, referred to as "dayglow" and "nightglow," which refers to lightwaves produced through chemical reactions caused by solar radiation.
Meet STEVE: The Light Phenomenon That's Not Aurora Borealis
STEVE isn't explained by that process either. But what is actually occuring is still a mystery. POES orbits the Earth a little over 14 times a day. With equipment that can measure particle changes within the ionosphere, it could easily detect an aurora or similar activity. But it detected no charged particles raining down from space, as would happen in an aurora.
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